Mechanics warn flooded cars from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may hit used car lots in Kansas City

Check a car's vehicle history before buying

GRANDVIEW, Mo. -- Buyers beware: Metro mechanics expect cars ruined by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to end up for sale on lots in Kansas City over the next several months.

Experts warn it’s hard to tell if a car is flood damaged, and some dealers go to great lengths to hide the vehicle’s history by moving it to a different state and “washing” its title. 

There are ways to avoid buying a lemon. 

John Schupp at Sci-Tech Automotive in Grandview said the price can be your first red flag. You should get suspicious if a car normally sells for $6,000 but is listed for $2,000.

“Frequently, damage can be repaired. The problem comes when people try to sell the car as if they had not been damaged,” Schupp explained. 

He said the best strategy for car shoppers is to run a title report on the vehicle before purchasing it. The National Motor Vehicle Information System partners with different companies to run reports. They typically cost less than $10. 

Schupp said you want to find out if a state ever labeled the car as “salvaged.” He added a Carfax report can also reveal what kind of repairs a shop has done to a vehicle. 

“Information is your friend, that's why you need to consult the databases, get a Carfax report. There are a variety of different sources,” he explained. “If you buy a car unknowingly, you have no one to blame but yourself because the information is out there.”

He always suggests having a mechanic inspect a car before you purchase it. Spending $50 for the inspection may save you money in the long run. 

“The problems can be transient and intermittent,” Schupp explained. “If you have to take it in and pay a mechanic every time to try to find a problem that may or may not be there when you present the vehicle, you could spend a lot of money.”

He said flood waters can damage electrical systems like the airbag sensors. It can ruin the vehicle’s engine, and it can rust parts of the car. 

“Intermittent problems are the bane of the existence of car mechanics. And I can't think of anything that would trigger more intermittent problems than water damage,” he pointed out. 

For information on how to get a vehicle’s title history, click here.

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