Flood-damaged cars sold with clean titles, leaving unsuspecting drivers in danger

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Making your way down the road, there could be a threat to your family driving right next to you.

"In California alone, we have 11,300 vehicles on the roadways with water-logged histories," says Emilie Voss from CARFAX. "That is a scary number and that is climbing year over year."

Voss says flood-damaged vehicles can have compromised brakes and electronics, putting their owners and you at risk.

Carol Ross bought two RVs that were the identical model.

"This is the new one and it looks exactly like the other one. Inside and out," she tells 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney.

The old one, well, there is a story behind that. She and her husband flew into Michigan where they bought an RV.

"I told my husband we better do a CARFAX on it," she says. "It was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so he said, 'You know what? It is a year old,' he said, so few miles, it had hardly anything on it. He said why would we even bother?"

200 miles from the vehicle pick up, the RV broke down. While Carol and her husband waited for a tow, they had time on their hands.

"While we were stopped for six hours, I pulled a CARFAX. 'Oh, no. we are in trouble Roger,'" Carol said.

Turns out that RV had quite the past.

"It appears this vehicle was in some sort of a flood, had some type of flood damage event, when it only had ten miles on it, back in July of 2017," Voss says, "Then back in October of 2017 it was retitled in New Jersey without that flood damage on that title."

Michael Finney asked her, "So no one would know it was in the flood?"

She answered, "Unless you checked the CarFax report."

Carol returned the vehicle, got all her money back and bought that second RV.

"I hate to call her lucky," Voss said, "but I think there are a lot of people who buy these flood-damaged vehicles who don't find out about it till way further down the road."

There are many ways to get a title report. CARFAX is the best known, but if you look online for "VIN Search" you will find many others.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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