Remember those pictures of all the flooded cars after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast? The Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau warned Wednesday some are showing up for sale in Washington state.
“Don’t be fooled by shiny paint and a ‘new car’ smell,” says Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Unscrupulous sellers will use every trick in the book to clean up and sell totaled vehicles. If buyers aren’t careful, the cars they end up with could be loaded with hidden and serious problems.”
While the AG’s office has received just one formal complaint, officials say it’s likely many others have gotten taken for a ride.
“That’s usually an indicator when we get one complaint there are probably more vehicles out there that are coming in and have been flood damaged,” says Mary Lobdell, a senior attorney in the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office.
While flood damaged cars may look normal, they almost always have serious problems beneath the surface such as chronic mildew or corroded wires, Lobdell says.
If you’re buying a used car, the AG’s office recommends researching the title and vehicle identification number at the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, and/or CARFAX, ‘Totaled’ cars get a new title marked with the word ‘salvage’ or ‘flood,’ but sometimes just a coded letter or number.
Lobdell says if you think you got a flood damaged car, dealers will often take the car back or you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.