Deal too Good to Be True on a Used Car?

Corpus Christi, Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     “The car was beautiful. Everything was immaculate,” said Paul Adams, who unknowingly bought a flood-damaged car in 2009, according to a CNBC report by Annie Nova.  The vehicle had been damaged in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but did not start to show its damage until later.

     At the Flour Bluff town hall meeting on Monday, September 18, Melissa Castro, Corpus Christi Police Department Auto Theft Task Force Project Manager, cautioned those in attendance about buying used – and even new – vehicles after a storm like Harvey from a used car lot or an individual.  In the literature she distributed at the meeting, she shared valuable tips for making “sniffing out” a seller who may try to sell you a vehicle with hidden damage.

     “Cars are rolling computers these days. When water gets as high as it did with Harvey, we’re going to see significant damage,” said John Van Alst, attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.  

     If you are shopping for a vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Be alert to damp or musty odors.
  • Check for carpet/upholstery that has been replaced or recently shampooed.  Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt, or signs of water stains.
  • Look for dirt build-up especially on the underside of the dashboard.  This area is hard to clean.
  • Inspect for rust under the vehicle.  Corrosion is uncommon in new vehicles.
  • Look for rust, mud, dirt, or discoloration in small, out-of-the-way crevices on the doors under the hood or inside of the trunk.
  • Ensure electrical components, such as lighting, heater/AC fan, window motors, and more are all functioning properly.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection of the used vehicle by a trusted mechanic.
  • Check the vehicle’s history; acquire a CARFAX Vehicle History Report.  The report may reveal if the car has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     Other websites that offer additional valuable information are as follows:


  • All DMVs throughout the U. S. Report to NMVTIS.
  • Total loss flood-damaged vehicles will be recorded in ISO, NMVTIS, and TEXAS DMV databases.
  • A catastrophe code is assigned to Hurricane Harvey losses.  NICB will pull the total loss flood damage vehicles based upon a flag placed by TEXAS DMV along with the catastrophe code assigned to Hurricane Harvey and enter the VIN record into the NICB Vincheck.

     Castro encouraged citizens to contact her office for more information or to report vehicle burglary, theft, and insurance fraud.

Corpus Christi Police Department

Melissa Castro

Auto Theft Task Force Project Manager

Office  361-886-2872

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