Unfortunately, from a car-buying standpoint, cosmetic repairs sometimes make it difficult to spot a vehicle that’s suffered severe fire, flood, accident, or storm damage.
By law, the vehicle should be branded as a salvaged vehicle, but some unscrupulous sellers disguise their salvaged cars’ damage with superficial repairs so they can increase the resale value.
Fortunately, however, there are ways for you, the buyer, to protect yourself against unknowingly buying a salvaged vehicle.
Protect Yourself Against Salvaged Autos
Not all salvaged vehicles are bad, but you shouldn’t be tricked into buying one.
Below are a few tips to help you determine whether the car you’re considering is on the up and up.
1. Order a Vehicle History Report
Ordering a vehicle history report is one of the most reliable ways to learn about a car’s past. These documents disclose the car’s full history, including ownership changes, accident reports, and service records.
The information on vehicle history reports comes from:
- Salvage auto auctions.
- State DMVs.
- Insurance companies.
- Car manufacturers.
- Police and fire departments.
- Car dealerships, especially used car dealer.
- Car rental companies.
NOTE: You will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to gain access to the car’s history.
2. Study the Car Title
Next, take a look at the car’s title. By law all salvaged vehicles require a salvaged stamp on the title. In most cases this will be the word “Salvage” stamped in large red or blue letters.
3. Have a Certified Mechanic Inspect the Vehicle
A car mechanic’s trained eye can detect hidden damages.
For instance, a cracked or bent frame (which is fairly common with salvaged vehicles) is generally a telltale sign that the vehicle suffered, at one point, major structural damage. It’s also a flaw that can be easily hidden. Consequently, if undetected, it could result in major repair costs for you.
4. Look for Flood Damage
If you detect any of the following signs, chances are strong the vehicle was damaged in a flood:
- Musty odors.
- Carpet dampness under the seats.
- Dark lines on seats (a fabric’s version of a high water mark).
- Rust in the trunk.
- New dashboard instrumentation.
Do you have any experience with salvage cars? What extra advice can you offer?