Georgia officials are warning anyone looking to buy a used vehicle to be careful about flood-damaged vehicles circling the market after Superstorm Sandy.
Damage can be hidden with new upholstery and minor body work, but the vehicles could have irreparable electrical damage, according to the Office of the Attorney General and the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.
Consumers can be duped into buying the damaged cars at auctions and used car lots or through online classified ads.
C&C Automotive Team Leader Aaron Clements said that water damage can have long-term repercussions but that there are precautions buyers can take before making a purchase.
Water damage can affect electrical components such as heating and ventilation, anti-lock brake systems and wheel bearings.
“When they get wet, they may work for a period of time, but they also can go out and have a domino effect as they start going bad,” Clements said.
Before making a purchase, Clements said, buyers can use Carfax to check a vehicle’s history. The Office of Consumer Protection also recommends visiting the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System’s Web site, vehiclehistory.gov.
If a car is listed as totaled in another state, it will often show up in the database, Clements said.
He also said a consumer should have an unbiased mechanic perform a full checklist inspection to look in places that are almost impossible to clean, such as wheel wells and places inside the trunk, to check for sand residue.
As a general rule, Clements said, the car is totaled if floodwater reached above the dashboard, but it can be salvaged if the moisture did not reach that point.