November 12, 2015
OLYMPIA—Expect the impact of killer floods in Texas and king tides in South Carolina to spread beyond those regional economies as thousands of flood damaged vehicles find their way into other states, including Washington.
While it’s not necessarily illegal to sell a salvaged “flood car,” some sellers are unaware of the vehicle’s true history or wouldn’t disclose it if they did. So, it’s up to the consumer to be vigilant when car shopping.
The first step every consumer should take when they find a vehicle is to check its identification number (VIN). The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck service is free, but may not be as comprehensive as a service like Carfax. And, neither is a defense against purchasing an unreported flood car or one with an altered title.
Flood damage can be hard to spot on a vehicle that has been pulled from floodwaters and thoroughly cleaned. They look like any other vehicle, but are a significant risk to public safety because of compromised electronic and mechanical systems.
Dirty floodwater causes rust and damages major mechanical parts and onboard computers that are often located under seats or in other low points in vehicles.
These tips can help to spot potential flood-damaged vehicles:
- Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
- Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.
- Use an online vehicle history tracking service like Carfax.com to get more information about a vehicle’s past.
- Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and to look for signs of water.
- Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
- Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
- Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
- Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
- If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.
The playlist below features two videos that address how to identify possible signs of a flood damaged vehicle.
April 11, 2013
Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limo company.
Prom season is upon us, and many high school students will be trying to make their special night even more fun by hiring a limo. The Department of Licensing reminds parents and students to check to see if the limo they hire is licensed by the state.
“If you’re planning to make your event extra special by using one of Washington’s quality limo services, we suggest you do your homework,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen said. “Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limousine company. Always check references and make sure the company is licensed before you hire them.”
Limousine operators in Washington are required to be licensed, carry sufficient liability insurance, and undergo annual safety inspections by the Washington State Patrol or City of Seattle. Chauffeurs must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid driver license, complete a chauffeur training course and pass a State Patrol background check.
Berntsen said a website, Craigslist ad, or a simple advertisement in the phone book or newspaper does not guarantee the operator is licensed. Unlicensed limousine operators may not meet state insurance or safety requirements and it can be difficult to hold them accountable if problems arise.
To find out if the limousine service you plan to use is licensed by the state, visit the Department of Licensing website at www.dol.wa.gov/business/limousine/. Scroll down to the area for consumers, click on “Look up a business or professional license” and then “Search business license.” If you do not see the business listed as a limousine company, please call 360-705-6744. They can help you verify that the limousine company is properly licensed.
DOL Video: Renting a Limo / Ride in Style, Ride Safely
September 11, 2012
A Washington resident tells us that a company recently called him to say it had learned from the “DMV” that he was paying too much for auto insurance.
Rest assured, the Department of Licensing keeps no record of the amount you pay for insurance.
In fact, whenever a company tries to sell you something by claiming to have DOL data, it should raise red flag. That’s because we don’t release data for marketing purposes.
However, we do have a sincere interest in protecting you from bogus claims and possible scams.
For example, earlier this year, several websites emerged offering to help provide driver licenses for a fee. While those websites might appear to be official, they are NOT affiliated with the Washington State Department of Licensing. And unlike those websites, DOL never charges a fee for customer service or for the use of any of our forms.
Here’s the video we produced earlier this year regarding those questionable websites; showing yet another example of how suspect companies are trying to take advantage of consumers.
June 13, 2012
Summer boating is right around the corner, and so is the deadline for renewing boat and watercraft registration decals. In Washington state, all boat registrations expire on June 30.
Don’t let an expired registration spoil your day; remember to renew before you get out on the water.
Boat registrations can be renewed online at the DOL website or in person at a neighborhood vehicle licensing office. Those who choose to renew at an office should make sure to note the registration number on the bow of the boat or watercraft and take that information to the office.
Due to budget cuts, DOL discontinued paper renewal notices for boats in 2010 and instead offered boat owners the opportunity to sign up to receive email renewal reminders. It’s too late to sign up for an email renewal reminder for this year, but boat owners can sign up online at dol.wa.gov to receive renewal reminders by email in the future.
February 8, 2012
Several websites targeting drivers across the country are promising easy online driver license renewals, but appear to be delivering little except credit card charges.
These companies, which appear to be located in foreign countries, are using paid advertising results on the major Internet search providers like Google and Yahoo to lure customers away from the official Department of Licensing (DOL) website. This is leading to extra fees paid to unknown companies who appear to be offering little more than services already available for free using the official DOL website.
Customers have reported these sites are charging as much as $35 dollars for “customer service” assistance in renewing a driver license. In addition many of these customers suspect these sites have sold their personal information to others for marketing purposes.
DOL posted a video on YouTube this week explaining that these websites are not associated in any way with DOL.
Doing business online with DOL and other government agencies is fast, easy and secure, but know these simple tips to make sure you are doing business with us and not an imitator:
- Access to DOL information and forms is free on the DOL website.
- Whenever you look at search results, keep in mind that the first several results may be paid advertising. Don’t just click on the first link; take a moment to examine your search results and pick carefully. If you need to do business with DOL, choose one that includes our “wa.gov” domain in the website address.
- Take time to read the fine print. These sites are taking advantage of the fact that people seldom read disclaimers on websites.