Car shoppers: Watch out for flood-damaged cars


News reports from various states are warning car-buying consumers to be alert for vehicles that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. In states directly affected by the flood, authorities are issuing alerts and consumer guidance – New Jersey state officials remind us that Sandy-flooded cars can be resold, but they must be properly been titled as such.
Car-buying consumers in other states should also be wary because damaged cars are often professionally refurbished and shipped to other parts of the country to be sold where consumers are unlikely to be on alert. We’ve noted before that even when cars “clean up nice,” they may well have electrical or engine damage that will surface later – this is particularly true of salt-water damage.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission offers the following sensible steps that used car buyers should take before making a purchase:

  • Check the vehicle’s title history and be wary if the vehicle has been titled multiple times over a short time period.
  • Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if the car has been damaged in the past.
  • Look for an insurance company’s name on the title history, and contact the company for vehicle information.

The NJ MVC also offers ways to spot a flood damage car:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

For more tips on avoiding flood-damaged cars, see our prior Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car which we issued after the 2010 floods in Rhode Island.

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