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NJ Residents Warned to Beware of Flood-Damaged Used Cars

Nine months after Superstorm Sandy, AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning Garden State residents that numerous vehicles that were submerged in flood waters and salt water to varying degrees are showing up on used car lots.

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“What might seem like a bargain – too good to be true on a used car might become a nightmarish ordeal, resulting in extensive, difficult, and expensive repairs,” said Tracy Noble, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Car buyers that flood-damaged vehicles can be shipped anywhere for resale, and may show up for sale as early as one week after a devastating storm throughout the United States. These vehicles can continue to appear in the marketplace for up to a year after a major flood.

So how do you spot a flood-damaged vehicle? Triple-A is offering a number of tips and things to look for:

  • Are the windows fogged up? Has the carpet or upholstery been replaced or recently shampooed? Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
  • Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
  • Look under the vehicle for corrosion. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states.
  • Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.
  • Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.
  • Obtain a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. This report can potentially reveal if the vehicle has been involved in a flood, major accident, fire, or uncover odometer fraud.

“Consumers should always have a used vehicle inspected by a quality repair facility prior to purchasing,” said Noble. “In the case of a cloned stolen vehicle, check to see if the dashboard VIN plate has been tampered with and have your trusted mechanic look at the hard to find VIN markings elsewhere on the vehicle to make sure they are the same as the plate on the dashboard.”

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