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Beware flood cars following Harvey, Irma, Matthew, and Florence

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Vehicles that have been totally or partially submerged often show up for sale on new and used car lots, after extensive cleaning that makes it hard for buyers to detect damage. Under North Carolina law flood damage must be disclosed in writing, but title paperwork is sometimes unlawfully altered to remove any mention of flood damage.

To avoid buying a flood-damaged car:

  • Ask the seller directly if the car has been damaged in any way, including by storms or flooding.
  • Consider getting a complete vehicle history report. Visit for a list of approved providers.
  • Request a copy of the title for any used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the vehicle comes from a state that recently experienced flooding. Flood damage will only be disclosed on the title if the insurance company officially declared the car totaled.
  • Have the car examined by an independent mechanic of your choice before you buy.
  • Avoid buying a car over the Internet if you haven’t seen it in person, especially if it is being sold in an area that recently experienced flooding.
  • Check for rust and mud in the trunk, glove box, and dashboard and beneath the seats.
  • Look for rusty brackets under the dash and carpet, discolored upholstery, and mismatched carpet.
  • Test electronics like headlights, windshield wipers, turn signals, power outlet, and radio.
  • Run the heater and air conditioner, and look in the vents for signs of water or mud.
  • Make sure all gauges on the dashboard are working accurately.

If you believe that you may have unknowingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle or want to report auto repair problems, contact our Consumer Protection Division by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Consumers can also get tips on auto damage disclosure and file a consumer complaint online at

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