Buyers beware: Dealers may try to sell flood-damaged cars in Bay Area

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The Better Business Bureau of West Florida is warning used car shoppers of possible fraud from dealers who may try to sell cars damaged by recent flooding.

Florida is number three on a list of states where previously waterlogged cars are most often sold to unsuspecting buyers.  After flooding caused by hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, shady dealers could flood the Bay Area area with water-damaged cars.

"Shortly down the road, you are going to start experiencing electrical failures, and there could be no end," explained Dennis Bosi of Bob Lee's Car Repair shop in Clearwater.

Bosi inspects used cars for prospective buyers, and he always checks for signs of water damage.  

"Under a dash of a car, it should almost look brand new. There shouldn't be any oxidation, there shouldn't be any rusting, there shouldn't be any corrosion anywhere," Bosi explained.

"Almost half of these vehicles will come back into the market," said Brian Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau. "These dealers are quick."

The BBB says covering up water damage can include anything from throwing down new mats and spraying some Febreze, to doctoring a title to hide flood damage. All used cars should be checked through their VIN number.

"You want to choose a reputable dealer you can trust," said Oglesby. "Be wary of purchasing things online or Craigslist."

Luckily enough, Bosi says water damage - like rust - is often visible after a simple check of the connections under the hood and in the trunk.