OMVIC Bulletin - Beware of Flood Damaged U.S. Vehicles


The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) issued a warning about flood-damaged U.S. vehicles entering the Canadian market. The registration systems in a few U.S. states are inadequate, and it is possible for a flood write-off to transit through that state and have its title "washed". It can then be exported from that state, possibly to Canada as an ordinary used vehicle. The APA last saw large numbers of U.S. vehicles entering Canada after flooding in the Mississippi Valley in the 1990s and early 2000s. A flooded vehicle can bedevil owners with seemingly random failures of electrical components such as seat motors, door switches and other hard-to-diagnose electrical problems.

In a recent investigation of the Toronto-area used car market, the APA discovered that the worst vehicles offered for sale were being sold by "curbsiders". These are unlicensed dealers who use the classifieds to sell cars they want you to believe are their personal vehicles. A curbsider will say they`ve owned the vehicle for a while, but usually won`t say they bought it new, to avoid having to provide the original bill of sale. The APA urges extra caution when buying a used vehicle privately, especially one that was imported from the U.S. Unlike dealers, who must disclose flood damage or risk being on the losing end of a lawsuit, a curbsider is usually hard to find after the sale and next to impossible to collect from even if a civil suit is successful.

Actually identifying a flood-damaged vehicle during a pre-sale inspection can be difficult in Canada. Mechanics are not alert to what to look for because flooded vehicles are a rarity in our market. It`s not unusual for an everyday Canadian used vehicle to have some water and salt stains in the carpet, because of wintertime conditions. APA expert Andrew Bleakley suggests you look for rust and green-coloured corrosion in electrical sockets, which are rarely cleaned or replaced when the interior of a flooded vehicle is being "reconditioned" for sale (the 12V "lighter" socket is the best one to start with). Brown stains on the carpet are a warning, as well as water stains and mud deposits under the dash. An expert may be able to spot telltale signs like dried mud residue in crevices in the engine compartment, trunk and interior. The APA`s recommended used car inspectors in Montreal and Toronto are excellent services to use if you are planning to buy a used vehicle from the U.S. in the months ahead. For the complete OMVIC Alert, click here.

If you are worried the vehicle you are looking at may have flood damage, CarProof is offering a free flood damage check. All you need is the car`s VIN. CarProof also has more information on how to avoid buying a flood damaged used car on their website.