Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission warns Tennesseans of vehicle scams

Staff Reports • Sep 19, 2017 at 7:07 PM

The Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission issued a warning Tuesday for Tennesseans that vehicles damaged in the recent natural disasters are likely to make their way to Tennessee’s market.

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.

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