If you plan to purchase a used vehicle in the next few months, be sure that you are on the lookout, but unfortunately, not just for the big bargains. Instead, you will also need to be watching out for the possibility of fraudulent flooded vehicles.

With hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as really bad thunderstorms in low-laying areas, floods are something that take place every year. In just the last couple weeks, Hurricane Sandy bombarded New York, New Jersey and several other areas of the East Coast. There have also been storms before and after that have contributed to flooding areas along the East Coast.

When these floods take place, unscrupulous dealerships and private parties will swoop in and buy cars that were damaged by water during the flooding. While this isn’t illegal, what often takes place next is.

These dealerships and private parties will try to take the cars to other states and quickly flip them before the damage (usually electrical) becomes evident when the car gets completely dried out and things stop working.

Always ask for the vehicle history report (Carfax) for any used car you are purchasing! A vehicle history report will tell you if a car has been involved in accidents, but also if the car has been salvaged, potentially from flooding.

But don’t just stop there, if someone is trying to sell you a car that’s been salvaged by the insurance company, there’s a strong possibility that their deceit won’t stop with just trying to sell you a flooded car. They could also attempt to falsify a Carfax report.

To make sure you don’t get duped and receive a used vehicle that has been damaged by flooding, take the vehicle to a trained mechanic you trust and have him/her test out the vehicle. Your trusted mechanic likely will have the tools to test out all the electrical equipment to make sure something isn’t about to give out (if it hasn’t already).

Besides checking the electronics, you can also check the filters to see if they look like they’ve been dampened and then dried out. One of the biggest indicators may actually take your nose. Smell the seat fabric, the carpet and any foam or fabric that may have absorbed water. If it has been in a flood, it is going to have a very distinct smell.

Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid ending up with a soppy lemon that breaks down on you just a couple months after you buy it. Best of luck!