Consumers warned about flood-damaged vehicles

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2006

By Staff
LANSING - Attorney General Mike Cox warns consumers about the danger of flood-damaged vehicles and provides tips to avoid unpleasant surprises.
In a Consumer Alert, “Used Vehicles Buyers Watch for Flood Damage,” posted on the Attorney General's Web site at, Cox cautions consumers of the dangers posed by flood-damaged vehicles.
He explains that without full disclosure, the buyer pays too much for the vehicles and risks costly repairs, hassles and, most importantly, even physical danger.
Cox urges consumers to have used vehicles thoroughly inspected by a mechanic before purchasing.
In addition to tips for detecting flood-damaged vehicles, the consumer alert references free tools to check the history of a used vehicle offered by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Carfax and AutoCheck.
Even if there is not any history of flood damage listed for the vehicle, consumers still should look for signs of flood damage by:
Checking inside the trunk, including around the spare tire, for evidence of moisture, silt or corrosion.
Checking the engine for signs of moisture damage, such as rust or silt or grass.
Giving the vehicle a smell test, both inside and out. If it smells musty, it could have been flood-damaged.
Examining the underside of the vehicle for signs of excess moisture, including evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles.
Checking inside dome lights, glove boxes and other places where water might have been trapped for signs of moisture, mold, rust or silt.
Checking the interior for signs of mismatched items such as carpeting or seat covers.
Testing all electrical components, including lights, signals, switches and audio system.
Testing the air-conditioner and the heater.
Cox warned that his office will take action against any business that knowingly sells a storm-damaged vehicle to a Michigan consumer without disclosing the damage.
Consumers who discover they unknowingly purchased a storm-damaged vehicle can file a complaint with Attorney General Cox's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-SOLVE-88 (1-877-765-8388) or online at
The warnings and tips in the alert are consistent with Cox's emphasis on proper disclosure in the used vehicle market.
In October, thanks to Cox's efforts, Michigan became the first state to make salvage title information available to the public from the State Farm Insurance Co. settlement.