Buyers beware: Trucks flooded by Sandy could pop up for sale

| November 05, 2012
A map from truck history report site RigDig showing how many trucks are owned in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In Hurricane Sandy’s wake, fraud experts are warning of unscrupulous truck sellers who may attempt to hide flood damage from buyers.

Joe Wehrle, who heads the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau, said Sandy may have resulted in thousands of vehicles flooded in several states. “Unscrupulous salvage operators and dealers often try to conceal from potential buyers the fact that vehicles have been damaged by a natural disaster,” Wehrle said.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, which includes the American Truck Dealers division, also issued a post-Sandy alert to check vehicle’s title history by VIN through commercially available vehicle history reports or through the bureau.

RigDig Truck History Reports are specifically designed for the commercial truck market, using

sources that track junk and salvage vehicles, total loss insurance claims, title and odometer brands, accidents, inspections, ownership, cargo hauled and CSA scores.

The Equipment Data Associates, a division of Randall-Reilly, produces the reports. More information is available at RigDig.com.

Additionally, the NICB, supported by more than 1,100 insurance companies and self-insured organizations, offers VINCheck.This free service allows buyers to check if a vehicle was declared as salvage by member insurance companies and alerts users if a vehicle is an unrecovered stolen vehicle.

Its data includes O.T.R. trucks insured by a member companies participating in the VINCheck program. More information is available at nicb.org.

NICB also works with law enforcement and bureau member companies to see damaged vehicles are entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which has data on 88 percent of the nation’s vehicles. More than half of U.S. states report data to the system and approximately 20 million salvage or total loss records are in NMVTIS.

The association noted severe damage occurs when water enters an engine through the air intake and parts can start rusting within hours after being submerged. Transmission fluid and engine oil will be compromised if contaminated.

NADA offers these additional tips to spot a flood-damaged vehicle:

  • Examine the interior and engine for signs of water and grit
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet
  • Look under floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks
  • Inspect for rusting on the inside, under interior carpeting and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for any evidence of fading
  • Check under dashboard for dried mud and residue, along with mold or a musty odor in the upholstery or carpet
  • Look for rust on screws in areas where the water would normally not reach
  • Check for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays
  • Inspect electrical wiring for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion

More information is available at nada.org.

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