Look out for that lemon! In wake of Irene, tens of thousands of flood-damaged cars are expected to hit the used- car market. Due to the heavy damages caused by recent storms, this year’s load of waterlogged vehicles is expected to be higher than in past hurricane seasons.
Purchasing a lemon can be very dangerous for unsuspecting buyers. Though the vehicles may drive fine initially, water damage to the vehicle turns it into a ticking time bomb. For example, flooding to the engine compartment can damage a vehicle’s electrical and safety systems causing airbags and antilock brakes to malfunction.
Generally, damages cars are taken to salvage yards to be salvaged. However, an unscrupulous dealer might refurbish and resell it, often to an out-of-state buyer, who may then resell to another. By moving the car to a different state and having it change hands multiple times, a dealer can erase any record of damage, a practice called “title washing.” Or repair shops may use parts from damaged cars to fix vehicles. Likewise, private sellers may also try selling their vehicle, and withhold the damage to the buyer.
Consumers can avoid this, in part, by buyer from reputable dealerships and ordering a vehicle history report from Carfax, which keeps all records of any damage reported to states, police and insurance companies. Carfax also offers a free flood damage check on its website. However, because car records are limited to what has been disclosed, prospective buyers should also take extra precautions, such as taking the car for a test drive and getting it inspected by a mechanic. In New Jersey, failing to disclose past damage to a vehicle is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 for the first incident, under the Consumer Fraud Act.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is!
Tips to Spot a Lemon:
- Because waterlogged cars must be given time to dry, they will likely resurface in a month (October) and continue cropping up throughout the fall.
- According to Edmunds.com, the signs of water damage in vehicles include musty odors, discolored carpeting, fogged-up headlamps, rust in the undercarriage, and dirt in unusual places.
For full article see Buyer Beware: Flood- Damaged Cars Could be Hitting the Market by Leslie Kwoh/The Star-Ledger for njdotcom.
- Experts Warn Customers To Beware Of Buying Flood-Damaged Vehicles (newyork.cbslocal.com)