Buyer beware of flood-damaged vehicles
DENHAM SPRINGS - The used car market can be tough to navigate. Hank Keith says he had no idea what he was getting into after he bought his 2004 Dodge Ram.
Keith tells 2 On Your Side he doesn't remember signing anything that said he was buying a flood-damaged vehicle. He also says the word "flood" never came up when he bought his truck. For the past few months, Keith says he's had a tough time fighting what he says isn't fair.
"I've been through you know what and back," he said.
Keith bought his truck Sept. 3, 2016, from a dealer on Airline Highway. He spent money he'd been awarded by FEMA for his flooded Toyota. The truck started giving him trouble soon after his purchase. He says the check engine light won't go off and it sputters.
"Scared it's going to leave me on the road," he said.
At his request, Keith was mailed an Office of Motor Vehicles Water Damage Disclosure form from the dealership where he purchased the truck in December 2016. He received a document with the truck's VIN and the dealer's signature, but without Keith's signature. Wednesday, 2 On Your Side acquired a copy of a document with the dealer's signature and with Keith's signature. Keith says he doesn't ever remember signing the document.
There's an X marked on the document, which says Keith's truck, "Did sustain water damage to the power train, computer, or electrical system as a result of August 2016 flooding but did not meet the requirements for the issuance of salvage title or certificate of destruction."
"They never told me it had flood damage at all," said Keith.
OMV Commissioner Karen St. Germain says, it's buyer beware for anyone who buys a used car after a flood event. Germain tells 2 On Your Side, a seller does not have to disclose if a car has been flooded. The buyer must ask for this piece of information.
It might be something to keep in mind since it's estimated 700,000 vehicles received flood damage in Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Germain says cars with liability insurance will not be reported to insurance and could end up for sale somewhere else.
Last August, of the approximately 140,000 vehicles that received flood damage, about 40,000 had only liability insurance. In some cases, those cars have been repaired and put back on the market. The OMV says there is nothing to prove the car has flooded without the owner having proper insurance.
If you're in the market for a used car, Germain suggests you have the dealer sign something that says, there is no flood damage to the vehicle, check the CARFAX and have a mechanic look it over.
"It's worth a trip to have a mechanic check it out," said Germain. "If they think they're getting a great deal they might not be."
Keith says if he had known his car had flood damage he would have never bought his truck. For now, he has no choice, but to live with what he bought.