Consumer Advisory: Watch out for flood-damaged used cars.

Months after hurricanes, these autos are now likely hitting Colorado.

DENVER – Remember Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma? Even though these storms hit U.S. shores months ago, here in Colorado we could start seeing one of the side effects of the storm – flood-damaged vehicles may now be rolling into the state.

After this summer’s hurricanes, thousands of submerged vehicles were abandoned. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), there have been numerous reports of flood-damaged vehicles from the Gulf Coast states being distributed across the country through car wholesalers.

According to Skyler McKinley at AAA Colorado, that flood inventory of cars is probably just now reaching Colorado.

While a car may look perfectly fine on the surface, there could be hidden defects. Long-term effects from flood damage can affect the vehicle for years, compromising a car’s computer and safety mechanisms, which pose significant safety hazards. Also, your insurance company may not insure or fully insure a vehicle previously determined to be a total loss.

As November is Colorado Consumer Protection Month, the Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), offers these tips to help you spot a flood-damaged vehicle.

Check the title
Colorado requires a salvage title if a vehicle is totaled as a result of a flood. However, some wholesalers may intentionally transfer titles to avoid having the damage noted.

Flooded vehicles are often declared a total loss by the insurer, at which point the vehicle should be issued a salvage title. A salvage title indicates the vehicle was deemed a total loss by an insurance company. These vehicles are usually sold at a salvage auction for parts. However, these vehicles can be legally resold if the flood damage is declared on the title.

And if the seller says they’ve lost the title, do not purchase the vehicle.

How to avoid purchasing a previously flooded vehicle
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was created to prevent the concealment of flood damage and other vehicle histories.  NMVTIS is overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and offers information to help protect you from title fraud and unsafe vehicles. This is a nationwide database and the only one to which all junk and salvage yards, insurance carriers, salvage auctions and other businesses are required to report total loss and junk/salvage vehicles.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) also maintains a database, VINCheck program, where consumers can enter a vehicle identification number to check for a salvage (or stolen) vehicle. It should be noted that these reports only monitor vehicles that were insured by participating companies.

Do your own inspection
Take the time to scrutinize the car.

  • Check the engine for a high water mark on the block or radiator, which is a clear indication that the car has been flooded.
  • Look for rust or corrosion on wires and other components under the hood.
  • Be suspicious if the carpet smells damp or of mildew.
  • Be leery of new carpet in older vehicles.
  • Flooded vehicles often end up at car auctions. Shop at a reputable dealership or get a full inspection prior to purchasing a vehicle.

Ask questions
Before buying a car, ask the dealer for a report with a detailed history of the car. If you’re not purchasing the vehicle from a dealer, you can get a vehicle history report.

Comprehensive vehicle history reports are produced with the vehicle identification number (VIN) and are available for a fee from a variety of sources, including the following.

More information
For more information about auto insurance, contact the Division of Insurance where our dedicated consumer services team helps people with everything from untangling the complex world of insurance to investigating formal complaints about their insurance companies or insurance agents. Contact the Division at 303-894-7490 / 1-800-930-3745 (outside of the Denver metro area) /

About the Division of Insurance

The Colorado Division of Insurance regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues. Visit for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745.

About DORA

DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit for more information or call 303-894-7855/toll free 1-800-886-7675.

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