Atlanta, GA – In the wake of Hurricane season and the resulting widespread flooding, the Department of Revenue (DOR) is joining Attorney General Chris Carr and officials throughout the State and country in warning customers to beware of flood-damaged vehicles being sold as new or used, undamaged vehicles.
If a flood-damaged vehicle was insured at the time it was damaged, it will likely have had a claim filed against it and reported by the insurance company as a total loss. Flood-damaged vehicles are legal to sell, but in most cases, must be properly titled as a salvaged or damaged vehicle. Bad actors may attempt to avoid disclosing a vehicle has flood damage or a salvage title.
One of the best ways to determine if a vehicle has been damaged or stolen is to conduct a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) check. To assist potential vehicle purchasers, the Department has published two web-pages, one highlighting the importance of conducting a VIN check and the other making it easier to see if a vehicle has been included in a safety recall.
If a flood-damaged vehicle was uninsured at the time it was damaged, there may be no official record of the damage. The lack of official records regarding flooding or water damage make it easier for bad actors to advertise the vehicle as undamaged to potential buyers.
The Department of Justice’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. Insurance companies are required, by federal law, to report to NMVTIS any vehicle that they deem to be a total loss. It is possible that some insurers may determine that some of the affected vehicles may be repairable and will not be deemed a total loss, however, if they are deemed salvage, other businesses such as salvage auctions are also required to report these vehicles to NMVTIS. The requirement to report to NMVTIS is on a 30-day cycle, therefore, it is possible that flood-damaged vehicles may appear for titling or registration, and a NMVTIS check may not show a report by an insurer if they had not yet reported it to NMVTIS.
Josh Waites, Director of the DOR’s Office of Special Investigations warns, “If you are getting a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is. Make certain you are dealing with a reputable dealership or individual and always have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing.”
For more information on flood-damaged vehicles and tips on how to identify them, please visit the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia’s website.