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Sandy May Produce A Rash Of Flood Damaged Vehicles…

As repair and restoration efforts proceed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, folks across the country are being warned to be on the lookout for some of Sandy’s more unlikely casualties to begin showing up in their neighborhood.  We are talking about cars, flood damaged vehicles recovered from the hurricane damage zone that marked Sandy’s landfall that may be making their way onto used car lots across the country in the coming months.  Many of these vehicles may be sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Vehicles that are sold with pre-existing conditions (i.e. damage) are not covered under most standard auto insurance policies. Folks how purchase a car only to discover much later that it was in fact damaged by flood waters will not be able to submit those repairs to be covered by their insurance.

These are what are known as “flood vehicles” and for obvious reasons.  They are cars and trucks that have been either partially or completely submerged in flood conditions to the extent that damage has been done to the mechanical and electrical components.  Unscrupulous dealers purchase these totaled out vehicles for next to nothing, and then resell them at tremendously marked up costs to buyers who are no doubt unaware of the vehicle’s history, and aren’t likely to do the homework necessary to uncover it.  Many of these vehicles are sold in states unaffected by flooding, where they are less likely to arouse suspicion. The scam artists do not disclose the damage on the title document, which is a crime known popularly as “title washing”.

When looking at a used car, it is always advisable to check the vehicle’s history. While no means exhaustive, a vehicle’s VIN number can go a long way towards providing a trail documenting the vehicle’s history, repairs, body work, etc.  With flooding, however, you have to do a little extra work to make sure you do not get stuck with a flood related lemon.

When considering a used vehicle, know how and where to look for signs that the vehicle has been in a flood, and avoid any dealer that tries to pass off a flood damaged car. You can easily find reputable dealers in your area by talking to family and friends, as well as checking the Better Business Bureau.

Examine the car thoroughly, looking for evidence of mold, mildew, silt, and debris in places you wouldn’t normally find it, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or within the engine compartment.  Look for rusty screws or other metal parts, as well as water stains or faded upholstery and discolored seat belts and door panels.

Check the flooring for dampness, as well as moisture or condensation on the inside of the instrument panel. Moldy odors or other intense smells are almost always a dead giveaway that there is a water problem. The same goes for smells of Lysol or other deodorizers, as they are commonly used to cover up problems.

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