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Beware of flooded cars

Flooded Car Warning - Heiting & Irwin Attorneys At LawIf you are looking to buy a used car, you likely already know to be wary of purchasing used cars that have been in an accident. While most cars have been in a small fender-bender at some point or another, a car that has been in a serious accident could develop grave problems down the road—making them dangerous to drive.

But did you know to avoid cars that have been flooded?

In the past several months, cars flooded during Hurricane Sandy have entered the market by way of unscrupulous sellers, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Cars that have been flooded are similar to cars that have been in serious accidents in that they can be very unsafe: driving one could increase your risk of accidents and injury. Don’t buy one without a very thorough inspection by a qualified professional.

“People masquerade those things as perfectly good vehicles without any hint that they had been flooded or exposed to water. There is a market for these vehicles, even though we might never want to see them on the road again,” said the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s Frank Scafidi.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau is a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating insurance fraud. According to the Bureau, the hurricane damaged more than 230,000 vehicles. These cars are snatched up by specialized firms that work on behalf of insurance companies to tow, fix, and resell them. Many of the cars are salvaged for working parts.

However, others end up in the hands of unsuspecting buyers. Auctions often downplay the damage to the car, and sellers may engage in a process called “title-washing,” in which the car is re-registered in a state that does not require it to be marked as flooded. Unfortunately, federal legislation that would require these totaled cars to be marked permanently has not made it out of Congress.

When buying a car, make sure to check a history report of the vehicle for all the states in which it has been registered. In addition, you should inspect the car itself, checking for the smell of mold, the presence of moisture in the upholstery and rust on the outside, and signs of faulty wiring. If possible, get an expert opinion from a mechanic. Safety should be your first priority.

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