Flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Sandy
could end up rusting on a used car lot near you
SEATTLE - As lives are put back together following the devastation
of Hurricane Sandy, car buyers are urged to take precautions when
buying a used vehicle. Although the East Coast is far from the
Pacific Northwest, flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Sandy
that should go to the junkyard will likely end up on local car
lots to be sold by unaware car dealers to unsuspecting buyers.
Vehicles sold with pre-existing damage are not covered under
a standard Auto
Insurance policy. If you buy a used vehicle and later discover
that it was damaged from being submerged in flood waters, your
Auto Insurance will not cover the cost of needed repairs.
"A 'flood vehicle' is defined as a vehicle that has been completely
or partially submerged in water to the extent that its mechanical
components and electronic subsystems have been damaged or destroyed,"
said Frank Scafidi, Director, Public Affairs, National
Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). "Unscrupulous people buy the
vehicles, clean them up to hide the flood damage then ship them
to states unaffected by flooding to be sold as normal used cars."
The scam artists also do not disclose the damage on the title
document, which is a crime called "title washing."
"You have to invest some time to find a reliable used car," said
Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "Checking VIN numbers
is a great start, but, whenever there is wide-spread flooding,
you have to take extra precautions to avoid getting stuck with
a car that falls apart around you."
If you are planning to buy a used vehicle, it's important to
know how to look for flood damage. NW Insurance Council, NICB
and the Insurance
Information Institute (I.I.I.) offer the following suggestions
on how to spot a flood car:
- Choose a reputable car dealer. Check with the Better Business
Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to find several in your area.
- Look for mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn't
normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk,
or around the engine compartment.
- Check for rust on screws and other metal parts.
- Look for water stains or faded upholstery as well as discoloration
of seat belts and door panels.
- Inspect the vehicle for dampness in the floor and carpeting
and moisture on the inside of the instrument panel.
- Check for a moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer
being used to cover up an odor problem.
For more information about how to spot a flood car, visit the
website for more tips. Also, the National
Motor Vehicle Title Information System offers an online tool
for consumers to access important vehicle history information.
For more information about insurance, contact NW Insurance Council
at (800) 664-4942 or visit www.nwinsurance.org.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization
funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon
National Insurance Crime Bureau is the nation's leading not-for-profit
organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and
defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics,
investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness.