Klaas Tuininga Insurance Agency
4055 Valley Commons Dr Suite B
Bozeman MT 59718-6432
(406) 587-0765 Phone
(1-800-398-0774) Toll Free
(406) 586-3817 Fax
Flood Vehicles: Avoid Buying A Washed-Up Vehicle
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita might start claiming victims in the rest of the country soon, in the form of badly damaged cars being sold without the buyer knowing their histories. Fortunately, we have joined an effort to keep this fraud at a minimum.
First, the problem: Crooks often salvage and clean up cars, trucks and SUVs that were submerged in water - and then pass them off as good buys. But such vehicles never run the same again, no matter how meticulously they're restored. Water, especially salt water, permeates everything - wiring, body panels, etc. - causing corrosion and mildew that often don't show up until time passes. Biological contaminants, such as found in sewage water, are nearly impossible to remove.
The problem isn't small: In the wake of 1999's Hurricane Floyd, about half of the totaled vehicles were resold. Imagine how many vehicles were totaled by Katrina and Rita - and then imagine half of them being put on the market. One expert predicts about 285,000 vehicles will be sold fraudulently, related to Katrina alone.
Farmers recognizes the problem and is acting to minimize it. Along with other insurers, we worked with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to create a database of damaged vehicles (and watercraft). Customers will be able to check the vehicle identification number (VIN) or hull identification number (HIN) of the vehicle or watercraft they want to buy by going to the NICB's Web site at www.nicb.org. The site lists VINs and HINs of vehicles damaged by Katrina and Rita, though it gives no indication as to the extent of the damage.
Tips to help avoid the flooded vehicle scam:
Examine the vehicle's interior for evidence of water and grit from suspected immersion. Look under the dashboard for dried mud and residue. Then look in the engine compartment: in engine compartment crevices, in alternator crevices, in fuse boxes, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays. Don't forget to check out the spare tire compartment.
Check for recently shampooed carpet. If the carpet doesn't match the interior or fits loosely, it may have been replaced. Discolored, faded or stained materials may indicate water damage.
Look under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning leaks.
Inspect for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting, and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for any evidence of fading.
Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where the water would normally not reach unless submerged.
Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion. Flex some of the wires beneath the dashboard. Wet wires become brittle when they dry and may crack.
Inspect the undercarriage of other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that wouldn't normally be associated with late-model vehicles.
Turn on the ignition key and make sure that accessory and warning lights and gauges work properly. Make sure the airbag and ABS lights come on.
- Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew, grime or stains.
- Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
Test interior and exterior lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work.
Inhale deeply, alert to musty odors from mildew and mold. Don't forget to smell the carpet, upholstery and trunk.
- Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connectors for these indicators:
- Ferrous materials will show signs of rust
- Copper will show a green patina
- Aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
- Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
- Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle before purchasing.
- Trust your instincts: If you don't like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!
The next step in the process is to REPORT INSURANCE FRAUD!
You may be eligible for a reward!
If you suspect insurance fraud or theft, speak up! Call the National Insurance Crime Bureau at (800)TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).
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