How To Avoid Buying Flood-Damaged Cars

Allen Toyota in Gulfport has been selling a record number of vehicles since the Wednesday after Hurricane Katrina hit.

"We had people that were just walking in here saying look I've lost everything. I need a car to go get ice, I need a car to go get my medication, I need transportation, my car was under six feet of water," said used car manager Steven Sanasac.

It is estimated that there are more than 500-thousand flood-damaged vehicles in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

And hopefully, none of those vehicles will be sold by a used car dealership near you.

But if you are currently looking for a new ride, here are some tips to help you not be taken for a ride by buying a flood-damaged car.

"The first thing that they really should look at...and this is the first thing I would look at on a car..I would look at the seat bolts. Any time cars have been in the water up to the seat now with all the electronics in the car, air bag systems, any time that water gets up to the seat, you got all the electronics and the computers usually underneath there, the car is gonna be a total loss. So I look at seat bolts," said Sanasac.

Sanasac also suggests opening the center console to see if there is any water residue in there. Check the oil stick and the radiator as well.

"Look at the dashboard itself where the gauges are, see if you see any water residue there because saltwater always leaves like a smudge and then corrosion will set up," said Sanasac.

And other signs of flood damage- rust underneath or in the vehicle, water droplets in the light fixtures, VIN numbers on vehicle titles which do not match the number of the inside of the vehicle, and last but not least, the smell.

Simply open your eyes before you open your wallet.

"Be real careful. If you have any doubts or things like that, take it somewhere and let them look at it," said Sanasac.

Fortunately, Sanasac says he hasn't seen that type of scam in his 15 years in the car business here in South Mississippi, but he says it's always good to know what to look for when buying a car, especially after a major storm.