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Purchasing A Used Car In The U.S.?

Posted By on 11-04-2018
Purchasing A Used Car In The U.S.?

Purchasing a used car in the U.S. may have some appeal to a Canadian looking for a good bargain, but buyer beware.

With all the recent flood damage done by hurricanes and tidal surges, there are an estimated one million vehicles in the States that were water damaged and classified as unrepairable.

Sure, someone might take a vehicle, clean it up and sell it second hand for a seemingly reasonable price.

Even if that vehicle was operable and didn’t give you any immediate issues, if you’re a Canadian buyer attempting to cross the border back into Canada, be prepared for possible entry denial! Technically, a U.S. vehicle designated with water damage can only be imported into Canada for scrap metal, or for specific parts.

Canada Border Services has strict policies on imported vehicles and requires specific paperwork for any vehicle entering the country.

Be careful when buying used cars that may have been involved in a flood

There is also the possibility of a water damaged vehicle not having been written off if the owner did not make an insurance claim, so the buyer may not even be aware this automobile had been involved in flooding. The owner could clean it up and sell it, with no-one the wiser until time elapses and corrosion or other problems begin to appear. This could even prove to be a safety issue if those corroding components are electronic, like airbag sensors and other such devices.

Follow these 3 basic steps when purchasing a vehicle, equally as useful and important for ascertaining if there may be flood-related issues.

  1. Perform an ownership history search of the vehicle. Knowing if a vehicle was previously owned by someone in a flooded area is a good indicator that there may be issues.
  2. Check with the vehicle registry for your province or territory to see if the vehicle you wish to purchase was declared non-repairable. In Alberta, any vehicle under this classification can only be sold as scrap
  3. Check with the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s VIN Verify Service, which also provides tools to help identify flood-damaged vehicles.


If you’re looking for more information on vehicles or water damage check out some other posts of interest:

Flooding And The Effects On A Vehicle
Preventing Water Leakage In Your Basement

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