Buyer beware: Flood-damaged vehicles imported to Canada: CCMTA

OTTAWA — Canadian transportation regulators are warning vehicle shoppers to be wary of cars and trucks from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast area that are being imported into Canada.

Canadian buyers looking for good deals should beware of “flood-damaged vehicles from the recent natural disasters in the southern U.S.,” warns the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the country’s road safety administrators.

According to a recent article from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Transport Administrators, more than one quarter of the two million vehicles in the Gulf Coast area are estimated to have sustained flood damage from Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. To help protect consumers from buying flood-damaged vehicles, the states of Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama are branding these vehicle records with variations of “Flood – Salvage”.

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act administered by Transport Canada, vehicles imported from the U.S. are processed through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) program. The RIV captures the branding shown on the U.S. Vehicle Titles and makes this information available to all licensing jurisdictions in Canada. Flood vehicles will be treated in the same manner and any branding applied to them in the U.S. will be carried forward in Canada.

Individual provinces and territories, however, have different rules on how to treat these vehicles. Depending on where a vehicle is licensed, the province or territory may consider these vehicles “Non Repairable” — meaning the vehicles may not be licensed, and could only be used as scrap or parts. Other jurisdictions may allow the vehicles to be licensed following inspections to ensure the vehicles have been adequately repaired.

According to the RIV, there are a number of practical tips to help consumers when checking vehicles for flood damage:

— Prior to purchasing a used vehicle, have it inspected by a trusted and certified automotive technician. A technician specializing in electrical and electronic diagnosis should also be consulted if flood damage is suspected to check the fuse box and electrical junction boxes.

— Check for damp or musty odours inside the vehicle. Check for any signs of rust and mud in the cab, glove box and beneath the seats and dashboard.

— Look for any discoloured upholstery or carpet that fits poorly or doesn’t match exactly.

— Make sure that all gauges are in working condition. Test everything — the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio etc.

— Check underneath the hood and look for a water line that was marked by mud or silt or for evidence of a recent engine shampoo.

— Check the heater and air conditioner several times.

— Ask to see the U.S. registration of the vehicle, keeping in mind that the registration will only indicate flood damage if the insurance company declared the equipment to have been salvaged.

Additional essential information on importing a vehicle can also be obtained at the Registrar of Imported Vehicles at or by calling 1-888-848-8240.

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