“Flood cars” imported to Washington risk public safety

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.

Beware of unlicensed limousine companies

April 20, 2015

limo-1Prom night creates driving hazards for many young people in our state each spring.

Hiring a limousine service is one way parents and students can ease their anxiety and help ensure the night’s travel itinerary is safe.

However, there are unlicensed limousine services putting everyone on the road at risk.

Unlicensed and unregulated limo businesses offer rides in vehicles that may be dangerous and driven by people who are unfit to drive or provide services to young people.

Limo-poster-thumbnailParents and students can easily check whether a business is licensed by visiting the Department of Licensing’s website.

DOL’s website includes consumer tips, a printable poster and a video that offers tips about hiring a limo service.

DOL’s printable poster states, Don’t Muck Around When You Rent a Limo, and includes helpful information.


Beware of online look-alikes

October 28, 2011

A website claiming to be the ‘official provider of Washington driver license forms’ has gotten the attention of DOL after customers called in after running across the site. The website asks customers to pay $24.95. It’s not clear what that payment will get them, but it won’t renew a driver license.

“The only ‘official provider’ of Department of Licensing forms is the Department of Licensing, and they are free,” says DOL director Alan Haight. He says that the agency website is safe, secure and offers a lot of time-saving services.

Customers should always make sure they’re on DOL’s website, as it always starts with www.dol.wa.gov. Web browsers on the secure portions of the site, like driver license renewal, address change or other services will display that they have a secure connection by using a padlock icon or something similar, as well as displaying https:// as the prefix of the web address. You will also see fortress.wa.gov as the web address on secure state websites.

Some search engines can also return advertisements in the form of ‘sponsored links,’ which can lead users to sites that aren’t what they think they are, so make sure that you know who you are doing business with on the internet, before you give any personal information or click send.

DOL hits major YouTube milestone

September 20, 2011

Drive Test VideoDOL customers have now watched agency-produced videos on the agency’s YouTube channel more than a million times.

DOL created a YouTube channel and began posting public service videos in March 2009. Our goal for the videos is to provide customer service, public safety, and consumer protection information directly to consumers in a way many favor.

In addition to being available on YouTube, the videos are featured on the DOL Internet website, often located in places that support more detailed written information about a topic. Several videos focus on consumer protection issues like buying a car or what to look for when renting a limousine.

The most popular videos include a four-part series designed to help people become familiar with the parts of the driver licensing road test that many consider the most challenging. As a series, these four videos have been viewed more than a half million times since they were posted 10 months ago. Similar videos that illustrate the motorcycle endorsement road test also have been very popular.

Green thumb with an eye to match? The landscape architect licensing board is looking for you

April 20, 2011

Interested in landscape architecture and don’t have a family or business connection with the industry? Here’s your chance. The landscape architecht board has a vacancy for its public member position.

The public member provides an important perspective: they offer a view that is sometimes difficult to see as a member of the profession and they advocate for the public as a whole.

The Landscape Architect Board examines candidates for licensure, holds disciplinary hearings, and recommends adoption of rules and regulations. The board meets 4 times a year and members serve 6-year terms. They’re entitled to reimbursement for their travel expenses and receive a small stipend as compensation for their service. For complete information about this governor-appointed position and application process, click here.

Don’t let your dream event turn into a nightmare

April 1, 2011

Teens getting into a licensed limo

If you‘re hiring a limo or town car for a prom or another special event, make sure you’re riding safely and in style.

Washington has a lot of licensed limousine companies to choose from.  Before hiring one, make sure the limo and the driver are properly licensed by the state.

To find out if the limousine service you plan to use is licensed, visit the Department of Licensing website at www.dol.wa.gov or call 360-664-1414.

Check the status of business and professional licenses online

February 4, 2011

 Always be sure that the person you’re doing business with is properly licensed. If you want to find out if a person or business has the proper license, you can search business and professional licenses on our website.  You can also get information on:

  • If a person or business has a professional license.
  • If a business is licensed with a city or the state.
  • If your business or professional license is active.
  • When a business or professional license will expire.

You can search by name, license number, type of license or location.  The search will only provide information about business and professional licenses issued by the Department of Licensing. For information about licenses issued by other agencies, visit the list of licenses.

Click here to watch our YouTube video about our license lookup system.


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