Flooded cars: How buyers can spot one after major NJ rains
Saturday's flash floods are likely to have lingering effects on several New Jersey towns.
Cedar Grove Police Lt. Frank Pumphrey told NJ.com this weekend he hadn't seen flooding like this weekend's since 1999's Hurricane Floyd. Initial estimates put the rainfall at close to 5 inches in some areas of northern New Jersey.
For some it was much worse. It look just minutes for water from an overflowing basin to drown a car up to its hood -- with a bride, groom and two other passengers inside -- Bogota police told New Jersey 101.5.
And perhaps the starkest example of Saturday's floods: Video posted on YouTube by the ASAP_Zonk channel and Megan Daley torrential showed waters washing away SUVs from the lot of the Route 46 Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Little Falls.
Flash floods also stranded drivers and blocked roadways elsewhere in New Jersey. Parts of Route 46 were shut entirely.
In 2015, Carol Kaplan of the National Insurance Crime Bureau told New Jersey "flood cars" were a big problem after hurricane Sandy.
"A lot of people got soaked, so to speak," she said.
And while this weekend's storms weren't, for most of the state, nearly as damaging as Sandy, it's not a bad idea for buyers of used cars in the next few months and beyond to do their due diligence.
"If you use both of those services, you be pretty assured that you are going to know whether that vehicle is flood-damaged," she said.
A once-flooded car should have a title that's branded as such, then-New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez told New Jersey 101.5 last year, but that's not always the way it goes, thanks to "bad guys" who try to pass a vehicle off without the proper branding and hope buyers several states away aren't as likely to check for water damage.
"If they weren't tossed around and dinged up, they will look fine," Martinez said. "But if the salt water has gotten into the electronics and in the engine ... it's just a matter of time before those vehicles are going to be off the road, and you don't want to be the person owning them when that occurs."
The MVC has no problem with the sale of flooded vehicles in the state; the danger arises when the vehicles are not properly marked on their titles. An 'F' status denotes a flood vehicle.
Martinez said to protect themselves in the car-buying process, consumers can make sure they deal with a reputable car dealer, request a vehicle history report, and get their own mechanic to inspect the vehicle.
What to look for:
- Musty or moldy smell, or the strong scent of a deodorizer
- Rust on metal that wouldn't typically be exposed to water
- Water-stained upholstery
- Water damage to the door panels or seat belts
- Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk
With previous reporting by Joe Cutter and Dino Flammia
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