S.D. AG Reminds Consumers to Avoid Flood-Damaged Vehicles

March 1, 2006

Attorney General Larry Long is reminding consumers who may be looking for a used vehicle to watch for flood-damaged vehicles. Many of the vehicles that were damaged in last year’s hurricane season may be making their way to the South Dakota market.

“Many of these vehicles may be repaired cosmetically and on the surface do not look like water-damaged vehicles,” said Long. “The consumer is at risk of costly repairs, or even worse, dangerous malfunctions of the brakes, computers systems or more.”

The National Insurance Crime Bureau provides a way to check the VIN (vehicle identification number) to see if a vehicle has been affected by the hurricanes. NICB is a non-profit group that works with insurers, law enforcement and the public to fight insurance fraud and vehicle theft. Consumers can log on to their Web site at www.NICB.org and enter the VIN to see if it is on the registry.

If a vehicle is on the list, most consumers should avoid buying it. If the vehicle is not on the list it is still best to do further research on the vehicle history. It is also important to ask the Dealer or owner to show the title. The title will provide you with the issue date and this will indicate how long the seller has owned the vehicle. Some titles may also have brands or other indications of where the vehicle was previously titled, this may be a reason to take a further look at the title history. The Motor Vehicle Division can do a title history to see where the vehicle has been. The consumer will need to complete a DPPA form and submit it to the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation, Motor Vehicle Division along with a $5.00 fee. Forms are available at the Motor Vehicle Division Web site at www.state.sd.us/drr2/motorvehicle.

Here are a few other services that can assist consumers in this search. Carfax, which sells vehicle history information, allows consumers to check for free if a vehicle was registered in any of the counties declared a federal emergency disaster area www.carfax.com/flood.

AutoCheck is also providing a free “storm damage scan” service for consumers to check vehicles. Go to www.autocheck.com/storm. When you enter a VIN, AutoCheck will tell you if the vehicle was reported as storm damaged (as reported by a dealer or company to AutoCheck).

Long suggests that consumers run the VIN through all the services available and to follow these other tips to detect flood-damaged vehicles:

* Check inside the trunk, including around the spare tire, for evidence of moisture, silt, or corrosion.
* Check the engine for signs of moisture damage, such as rust or silt or grass.
* Give the vehicle a smell test and if it smells musty, it could have been flood-damaged.
* Examine the underside of the vehicle for signs of excess moisture.
* Check inside dome lights, glove boxes, and other places where water might have been trapped for signs of moisture, mold, rust, or silt.
* Check the interior for signs of mismatched items such as carpeting or seat covers.
* Test all electrical components, including lights, signals, switches, and audio system.

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