AG warns that flood-damaged cars could be for sale in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. — After many areas were devastated by hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is warning that scammers are trying to sell flood-damaged vehicles in Washington.

The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance estimates as many as a million flood-damaged vehicles could be sold to unsuspecting buyers across the nation.

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Ferguson and the Washington State Auto Dealers Association say that just because a car has a perfect exterior and a “new car smell,” doesn’t mean that it doesn't have serious problems such as mildew and damaged wiring which can lead to electrical problems.

The attorney general recommends that before buying a used car, buyers should research the title and VIN number at and/or

The attorney general's office also says buyers should the following guidelines:
  • Test Drive First: Before you buy a used vehicle, you should thoroughly examine the vehicle and go for a test drive to test the vehicle's mechanical operating condition. This means that you should drive the vehicle as you would under every day driving conditions — freeway, in-city, hills etc.
  • Check the Gauges: You should check the operation of all electrical and comfort amenities (windows, lights and turn signals, defroster, heater and air conditioner), blow the horn, check the brakes by coming to a controlled emergency stop, and listen to the engine accelerate when entering on to the freeway and on hills.
  • Complete a Visual Inspection: Do a complete visual inspection of the vehicle; look under the vehicle for any signs of frame damage or collision repairs, any flood damage and any missing, loose or ill-fitting body parts; check the engine compartment and trunk for fresh paint that might reveal prior damage or signs of flood damage.
  • Check it out with Your Mechanic: If the vehicle passes your test, take it for an inspection by a qualified mechanic of your choosing. The mechanic should check the brakes, electrical system, compression, transmission, and every other system on the vehicle, especially any that caught your attention during the test drive. You should also consider an emissions control system inspection and test. Inspections may cost you some money, but if the mechanic discovers a major defect, you have saved yourself a big problem and a lot of money. When an inspection reveals only minor defects, you can use that information to negotiate either a lower purchase price or get the dealer to agree, in writing, to fix the items before purchase.

If you purchased a car with flood damage, try to return it to the dealership and file a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General's Office at