The TMVC warned consumers to be alert for scammers who might disguise severely water-damaged vehicles as being perfectly good.
“The recent disasters in Texas and Florida are expected to leave more than a million flood-damaged vehicles in their wake,” said Motor Vehicle Commission executive director Paula Shaw. “We want to help Tennesseans avoid unknowingly purchasing a used car that may have received non-repairable damage. Driving a flooded car puts its owners and other drivers at risk of injury or death.”
The Motor Vehicle Anti-Theft Act of 1996 makes a clear distinction between a “fresh water flood” vehicle – which can be rebuilt – and a “saltwater damaged” vehicle – which cannot be rebuilt.
Many of the vehicles damaged as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma will be categorized as saltwater damage due to the presence of “brackish water,” a mixture of salt and fresh water that is generally the result of the backwash of saltwater into bayou areas.
Saltwater damage continues to corrode and eat away at a vehicle’s body and operating components, even after it is cleaned and repaired. With the computer system of current motor vehicles commonly in the lower part of the car, even low-water levels can cause damage to a vehicle’s electrical system.
Scammers take advantage of the fact that no national standard or definition of title brands exists. Moving water-damaged vehicles to states with different laws or definitions gives those vehicles a clean title in that state.
Typically, there is always an influx of water or saltwater-damaged vehicles on parking lots and social media sites after a hurricane or flood.
Anyone who suspects a licensed dealer has sold a vehicle with a salvage history and failed to disclose it, complaint may be filed at tn.gov/commerce/article/mvc-file-a-complaint.