North Carolina Department of Justice
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AG cautions consumers about flood-damaged cars

Release date: 9/26/2005

Consumers urged to inspect new and used cars carefully

Raleigh: In the wake of flooding caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Attorney General Roy Cooper today warned consumers in the market for a new or used car to watch out for flood-damaged vehicles.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of recent disasters along the Gulf Coast and with those North Carolinians who are recovering from Hurricane Ophelia,” said Cooper. “I don’t want to see people get hurt by dishonest dealers who may try to disguise cars that were damaged by these storms.”

While there are many legitimate automobile dealers, there are also some unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicle's true history. Prior to being sold, flooded vehicles are put through a cleaning process that can make it difficult to tell that the car has been damaged. Water damage may not be immediately apparent and can takes weeks to appear in some cases.

“Thousands of cars have been flooded and it won’t be long before these vehicles start appearing for sale across the country and in North Carolina,” said Cooper. “Flooded cars can be shipped to places hundreds of miles away from areas hit by storms, and consumers need to be on guard so they won’t get stuck with a damaged car.”
To decrease your chances of buying a flood-damaged car, Cooper recommended the following tips:


  • Ask to see the title of any used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the vehicle comes from a state that recently experienced flooding. Keep in mind that the title will only indicate flood damage if the insurance company officially totaled the car. Also, consider checking a vehicle’s history with a service such as CarFax.com.

 

  • Before buying the car, have it examined by an independent mechanic.

     

  • Ask the seller directly whether or not the car has been damaged by water or any other occurrence.

     

  • Check for signs of rust and mud in the trunk, glove box and beneath the seats and dashboard. Look for rusty brackets under the dash and carpet, discolored upholstery and carpet that fits poorly or doesn’t match exactly.

     

  • Test everything: the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter and radio. Check the heater and air conditioner several times, and look in the vents for signs of water or mud. Make sure all gauges on the dashboard are accurate and in working condition.

     

  • Be on the look out for cars that may have been hit by falling trees or other debris and then poorly repaired.

     

  • Think carefully before agreeing to purchase any car over the Internet sight unseen, especially if the vehicle comes from an area that has suffered a flood or other disaster.

     

Consumers who believe that they may have unwittingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle can report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.