Buying a car can be a major headache, frustrating, and time-consuming. It is a major purchase for many people and along with a nice sized price tag comes a monthly payment, insurance, and eventually car repairs. However if you find that you have purchased a water damaged car, your repairs may end up costing more than what you paid for the car since water damaged cars are sold as used cars.

It has been reported that many cars from the hurricane Katrina ravaged areas are making their way to other cities and being sold to unsuspecting consumers. What is so bad about water damaged cars? Many people don’t know that high water not only prevents your car from driving causing your car to float, but high water damages major parts of your car. Water can and does damage the engine, the electrical system, and the interior if water sits in a car for longer than two days.

If a car becomes flooded, the owner collects the insurance and the car is hauled off to a salvage auction where separate working parts are sold. Since many water-damaged cars can be driven for a short amount of time, many of these cars are resold on the used car market. Every year thousands of water-damaged cars are sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Scammers purchase these water-damaged cars, clean them up, and sell them either privately or publicly without disclosing the problem to the consumer. Most of the cars are sold out of state because it’s easier to register them and get a title without disclosing water damage to the car.

The unsuspecting consumer buys the out of state water damaged car, which looks perfectly fine, yet under the hood and inside the interior tells another story. Eventually parts that were damaged will suddenly start appearing. Problems arise such as wet or cracked wires and rust on the engine or on the body of the car. Also, brakes, door locks and windows, heating, and air-conditioning stop working.

Although it would seem that selling a water-damaged car is illegal, it isn’t. What is illegal is concealing the extent and nature of the problems from the water damage. To avoid getting scammed make sure you do a thorough check on any used car. Start with checking the vehicle identification number or VIN with online services such as carfax.

You can also examine engine cracks, the glove compartment, the spare tire, and beneath the seats for water lines or signs of mud deposit or rust. Check the dashboard for accuracy and condensation. Check electrical parts, like wipers, lights, turn signals, the heater, air conditioner, and the radio. Make sure the engine wires bend easily and are not cracked, wet, or dry.

Be suspicious about new carpeting, which can be used to replace soiled carpet. To save yourself headaches, if a car has been water damaged your best bet is to not purchase the vehicle. Another red flag letting you know a car has been damaged by water is the cost; a 2006 Lexus should cost way more than $20,000.