The water has receded from the heavy rains in the Northeast on the week of July 1, but it left behind a lot of water-damaged cars.
The Consumer Federation of America is reminding residents that a lot of unscrupulous dealers get a hold of these vehicles and sell them, without telling customers where they came from.
CFA Executive Director Jack Gillis said there are ways to protect yourself. You can start by copying down the VIN number of the vehicle that interests you. It’s located on the dashboard and visible through the window. Then you type in that number with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System established by the US Department of Justice. Gillis said you will pay a small fee, but it’s a comprehensive database. You can also check out the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) or CarFax which both provide free flood history information.
“However, there’s a lot of ‘title washing’ that goes on. There’s a lot misrepresentation in this world of used cars so it’s not a 100% guarantee,” said Gillis.
In that case, he said you need to do your own inspection. The first thing to do is to use your nose. “If it smells musty or damp,” Gillis said. “Look for dirt or mud or water stains in unusual places. Open up the trunk and pull back the fabric that’s on the base of the trunk and see if you see anything that looks unusual.”
Something that could look unusual is mud, sand or stains on the spare tire and jack equipment, and the well under the spare tire.
GIllis said to try all the power options, such as the windows, locks, seats, moon roof, automatic doors, wipers, window washers, lights and the air conditioning system. If they don’t work or sound funny, or operate erratically, be careful. Also, trying the sound system and listen for any crackling or speaker failure.