Flood Cars Wash Up In Local Lots

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Posted Tue, Nov 5, 2013

Condensation gathers on the dash of a Volkswagen Jetta for sale at Big Bear Motors in Golden.  In Colorado, few measures are in place to protect buyers from getting a flood car that was in a salvage yard days before. [Photo by Luke Whittaker]

Condensation gathers on the dash of a Volkswagen Jetta for sale at Big Bear Motors in Golden. In Colorado, few measures are in place to protect buyers from getting a flood car that was in a salvage yard days before. [Photo by Luke Whittaker]


DENVER–It’s been nearly seven weeks since floodwaters ravaged parts of Boulder and the Front Range, but lingering effects are showing up in local used-car lots.

“They’re like zombie cars–dead and risen again, said Eugene Koev, a car mechanic  for Infiniti in Denver. From a distance they may look OK, but with these cars it’s the unforeseen that’s trouble.

Following the flood, hundreds of cars were deemed damaged in excess of fair market value and relegated to salvage yards destined to be scrapped or parted out.  Some of these cars, however, have found their way onto used car lots.

Flood cars may have the apparent damage that you see of typical salvage cars and the true problems may be hard to initially detect and diagnose, such is often the case with water and car electrical systems.  Furthermore, a lot of the problems are just waiting to happen, after the water has had enough time to effectively start to corrode the car from within.

In Colorado, a state that rarely sees catastrophic flooding, few measures are in place to protect consumers from potentially driving a car that was on a salvage lot just days before.  The state has been working on developing a committee to address the issue and other loopholes.  A message for Tammi McCoy, vice president of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association, regarding these changes was unreturned.  Some strides are being to shine light on the gray areas of the salvage industry.

“They truly they need to be scrapped, but some are being reupholstered as sold as clean-looking vehicles, you have to be careful if it looks too good to be true,” said Koev.  The trouble with flood cars may not be apparent up front and consumers may be less meticulous when they see a bargain price.  “Yet some flood cars only take a sniff, the mold is the first thing you notice, there’s an undeniable mold smell with cars that have been in standing water,” Koev said.

Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles officials stress that a  car that is “damaged in excess of fair market value” is considered unsalvageable. But what the sellers don’t have to reveal is whether the damage was flood related–whereas it’s required by in other states. The best way to protect yourself is to be an informed consumer and become familiar with flood damage signs when inspecting a vehicle.  Here are some tips and red flags:

    l. Smell: Run the air conditioner, is there sour, mildew-like odor?  Conversely, does it smell like someone is trying to mask a smell?  If it was recently reupholstered, ask why.
    2. Feel: Run your hands along the carpet and the seats; feel for irregularities in texture and for any damp spots, especially in the trunk.
    3. Look: Pop the hood and look for a leaves.  Is there mud in any joints? Any discoloration or water stains on the seats?
    4. Electrical:  Test out all the electrical components (the lights, stereo, clock, gauges).  Also inspect the housing of the lights for any condensation.
    5. When in doubt, ask your mechanic to have a look with you.

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About Luke Whittaker

Luke Whittaker is a Denver-area freelance writer.

View all posts by Luke Whittaker

3 Responses to “Flood Cars Wash Up In Local Lots”

  1. Ashley Hattle Says:

    I really like this article. The lead is great and made me keep reading. It’s also good to have those tips and red flags I never would have known those things otherwise.

    Reply

  2. Mark Braley Says:

    Good story, I like your angle. There has been so many different stories about the floods but you are the only one to bring this problem to light.

    Reply

  3. Robert Crew Says:

    Great story! I love the zombie quote, and think that the list at the end was a great idea.

    Reply

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