If you’re planning to buy a used car, New Jersey officials are advising you to make sure you don’t unknowingly wind up with a vehicle that was flooded during Superstorm Sandy.

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An online database set up by the Division of Consumer Affairs lists all the vehicles that were issued flood or salvage titles since the hurricane swept over the Garden State last October.

Omission of material facts to buyers, such as the existence of a flood or salvage title, violates the State’s Consumer Fraud Act.

"We will take action against those who attempt to deceive used car buyers, including the filing of lawsuits where warranted, in order to protect consumers,” New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa says.

He points out it is not illegal to sell a vehicle with either a flood or salvage title, but specific requirements do exist to ensure the status of such vehicles is disclosed to potential buyers.

The online database, accessed here, lets users enter the VIN number unique to each vehicle, to see whether a flood or salvage title has been issued for that car or truck.

State officials recommend that before purchasing a used vehicle, consumers should:

  • Check the vehicle's title history and be wary if the vehicle has been titled multiple times over a short time period;
  • Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if the car has been damaged in the past; and
  • Look for an insurance company's name on the title history, and contact the company for vehicle information.

They also stress the telltale signs that a vehicle may have sustained flood damage include:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car;
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch;
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts; and
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.