DHSMV is committed to educating consumers on safe car-buying practices. Flooding is one of Florida’s most frequent hazards. Consumers can take steps to educate themselves about flooded vehicle sales.
When a vehicle is flooded and reported to the owner’s insurance company, the insurance company will brand the vehicle and report it to DHSMV. A brand is a descriptive label assigned to a vehicle that appears on that vehicle’s title, which identifies the vehicle’s current or prior condition, such as junk, salvage or flood. Section 319.14(1)(b), Florida Statutes, requires that DHSMV indicate in a conspicuous place on the title that the vehicle is flood damaged.
If the vehicle is titled in Florida, you may use the DHSMV’s Motor Vehicle Information Check to confirm the vehicle description and check for brands. You must have the vehicle identification number (VIN) or title number to perform the search.
In addition, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is an electronic system that provides consumers with valuable information about a vehicle’s condition and history. NMVTIS allows consumers to research a vehicle’s title, most recent odometer reading, brand history and theft data, if applicable.
- Do all states require damaged vehicles be branded?
Unfortunately, no. The Florida DHSMV fully participates in title branding to protect consumers, but standards for vehicle titles are controlled by states and vary across the country. This means that a flood damaged vehicle from another state can be sold in Florida with a clean title.
- Are flood cars inspected before retitling?
Vehicles are not inspected prior to being branded as a flood vehicle. Insurance companies are required to brand flooded vehicles as salvage flood. If the vehicle has been rebuilt, DHSMV will inspect the major components to ensure that the parts have not been stolen.
- Do dealers have to inform consumers about damaged vehicles?
Yes. Dealers must disclose in writing if a vehicle has been branded.
Follow these tips to check if the vehicle you are buying from a dealer or a private party has been flood-damaged:
- If the vehicle is titled in Florida, you can search the vehicle VIN through the department’s Motor Vehicle Information Check to confirm the vehicle description and check for brands, or visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) prior to purchasing a vehicle to find information on the vehicle’s title, most recent odometer reading and brand history.
- Use your nose! If a car smells musty it has likely been exposed to water. If it has a strong smell of air freshener, it may be masking the smell of mildew. Check the carpet and upholstery for strong smells and mold.
- Look for a waterline or signs of mud inside the vehicle. Places often overlooked are the glove box, under the dash and the trunk.
- Check under the vehicle for signs of rust or corrosion that seems out of place for the vehicle’s age and location.