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Beware of Flood-Damaged Used Cars in Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Consumer groups warn that even potential buyers looking for used cars far away from where Sandy hit should be on the lookout for flood cars.

Washington, DC -- As tens of thousands of flood-damaged cars enter the car market via auto auctions, two national consumer organizations, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS)  and National Consumers League (NCL), warned car buyers today to beware of new and used cars that suffered flood damage from Hurricane Sandy.

"Flood cars are ticking automotive timebombs," said Rosemary Shahan, President of CARS.  ”Flood cars are inherently unsafe, particularly since all the electronic systems that control the engine, brakes, air bags, and other vital safety systems are hopelessly contaminated and will inevitably fail.

The groups noted that even consumers buying cars far away from where Sandy hit should be on the lookout for flood cars.  “Flood damaged vehicles can be shipped across the country in a matter of days,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “Consumers throughout the US need to take specific steps to protect themselves from inadvertently buying these vehicles.”

CARS and NCL offered these tips for used car buyers:

  • Consumers should check the vehicle history, using the unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) (found on the driver’s side under the windshield) and entering the VIN into the national government database. The system is called the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). It was established by the US Department of Justice,  and can be found atwww.vehiclehistory.gov. Vehicle histories can be accessed for between $3 and $13. This database contains valuable information, including whether the vehicle was reported by one of the entities that are required to report total loss vehicles -- in ALL 50 states -- including insurers, self-insured entities such as rental car companies, salvage pools, junkyards and recyclers.
  • In addition to checking NMVTIS, consumers should get the vehicle inspected by independent, reliable, trustworthy auto technicians prior to purchase -- including when buying over the internet – before purchase.
  • And never, ever send money to someone over the Internet whom you have never met and whose background you have not or cannot check out; car frauds and scams are rampant on the Internet. If a deal seems too good to be true, it is! 

 “Shady businesses will stop at nothing to hoodwink consumers into buying a vehicle that looks good but has a bad history. Let the buyer beware! Savvy consumers taking a few simple steps can save themselves thousands of dollars if they do some checking before they buy,” said Shahan.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.


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