The Texas Attorney General's Office is advising any Texan considering a used car purchase to be wary of vehicles for sale that might have suffered flood damage from Hurricane Harvey. It’s estimated that between 500,000 and one million automobiles were submerged in floodwaters during the unprecedented disaster.
In Texas, a seller is required by law to tell prospective buyers about damage to a vehicle. If the damage is from flooding, the words “Flood Damage” must be included on the vehicle’s title. Failure to disclose that information may be a violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“While most Texas businesses and individuals are law-abiding, there are always those looking to take advantage of consumers by selling them flood-damaged vehicles in the months following a hurricane,” the AG's Office warns. “A cleaned-up vehicle could be a ticking time bomb with unseen damage, posing mechanical and safety risks to the buyer. If you suspect fraud, report it to the Consumer Protection Division ... at 1-800-621-0508. We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases.”
The office's Consumer Protection Division offer Texans the following tips to protect against buying flood-damaged vehicles:
Look for tell-tale signs of flooding. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles offers a checklist at http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/buying-or-selling-a-vehicle/title-check-look-before-you-buy/water-damage.
Have the vehicle inspected by an independent, competent automotive technician who has no relation to the seller. Since flood damage is hard to spot, paying an expert mechanic for an inspection provides peace of mind.
Check the vehicle history with a private service that can research insurance claims. Visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System for its list of approved providers at https://www.vehiclehistory.gov/nmvtis_vehiclehistory.html.
Always review the vehicle’s paper title before you buy. Check to see if it has been “branded” as salvaged or damaged.
Report suspected fraud to the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division by calling toll-free 1-800-621-0508 or by filing an online complaint at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.