How to Avoid a Flood-Damaged Vehicle when Buying Pre-owned

One of the consequences of the recent hurricanes in the U.S. is the potential for these vehicles to wind up in Ontario, to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.

By Larry Lantz Wheels.ca

Nov 6, 2017 3 min. read

Article was updated 6 years ago

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The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) has issued an alert to consumers who are in the market to buy a pre-owned vehicle.

One of the consequences of the recent hurricanes in the U.S. is the potential for flood-damaged automobiles to wind up in Ontario and to be purchased by unsuspecting consumers.

This isn’t a new trend; it happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and again after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The problem with a flood-damaged vehicle is that water damage is not always visible until months, or years, after the fact. When water gets into sensitive electronic systems or safety components, it could cause corrosion and lead to vehicle malfunctions. This could compromise a vehicle’s safety and put drivers and passengers in jeopardy.

Many of the vehicles severely affected by the U.S. storms will be covered by insurance, but some of those vehicles will be uninsured. According to OMVIC, some of these uninsured vehicles could be “dried out, cleaned up and sold off by unscrupulous sellers without recording that history on any documents.”

These vehicles could be given clean titles, and the flood damage would not show up on a history report.

It is possible that flood-damaged vehicles could trickle into Ontario over the next few years. Those who import and sell these vehicles are referred to as ‘curbsiders,’ people to misrepresent themselves and the vehicles they are selling for their own gain.

Fortunately, there are steps consumers can take to eliminate the risk of buying a flood-damaged vehicle, the most important of which is to purchase from an OMVIC-registered dealer.

Dealers are lawfully required to disclose if a vehicle has been branded:

1) Irreparable, salvage or rebuilt;

2) If a vehicle has been declared a total loss;

3) If a vehicle has been registered in another jurisdiction, and if so, where;

4) And, if a vehicle “sustained any damage caused by ‘immersion in liquid that has penetrated to the level of at least the interior floorboards.’

Flood-Damaged Vehicle

Surprisingly, no such laws require private sellers to disclose this information.

When a vehicle is assigned ‘irreparable’ status in Ontario, it may not be licensed and can only be used for scrap or parts. Such a vehicle poses a health and safety risk to the driver, passengers and other motorists.

There are benefits when you buy from an OMVIC-registered dealer: They thoroughly research all vehicles acquired through trades or at auctions, and they pay into a compensation fund for consumers who have suffered a financial loss as a result of a transaction with a registered dealer.

With registered dealers, consumers enjoy a level of protection that is simply not available when they buy privately.

CarProof is Canada’s leading provider of comprehensive vehicle history reports to consumers and is endorsed by the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. CarProof reports are available on most pre-owned vehicles directly from dealerships’ websites.

Whether you buy a used vehicle privately or from a registered dealer, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of buying a vehicle that has earned “irreparable” status.

∙ Inspect a vehicle in daylight;

∙ Look for obvious signs of water damage, such as mould, mildew, and sand under the carpets, trunk mat or behind the dashboard;

∙ Test the major components, such as the radio, windshield wipers, turn signals, headlights, and heating and air-conditioning systems;

∙ Check for damp or musty odours;

∙ Check under the hood and carpets for mud and/or silt waterlines;

∙ Look for rusting on screwheads or on out-of-the-way panels;

∙ View the service records of the vehicle;

∙ Road test the vehicle at different speeds. Any major deficiencies will be more apparent during a test drive.

Remember: If the deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. When in doubt, ask a friend or someone who knows cars to assist you.

Flood-Damaged Vehicle

This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.

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