Buyer Beware: Flood-Damaged Vehicles Are On The Market

Nov 19, 2012

Looking for a great deal on a used car? Be careful, warns Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. As many as a quarter-million vehicles damaged in Super-Storm Sandy are hitting the market.

Right now, we're looking at New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. And if your car has come from one of those states, then there's the possibility your car may have sustained water damage.        

Debris in engine of a flooded truck in Little Poland, New York City, October 31, 2012.
Credit Juan Monroy / Flickr

White says it’s illegal to sell a water-damaged vehicle without a “flood title.”  Owners of undamaged cars that were registered in counties where flooding occurred have to take extra steps to obtain a “clean” Illinois title through White’s office: that includes the owner and the insurance agent signing a Hurricane Disclosure Statement.

Flood waters can ruin a vehicle’s electrical system, which isn’t immediately detectable. Potential buyers are advised to shop reputable car dealers, look up vehicle information numbers for a car’s history, and most importantly, have a mechanic check it out before buying.

Another hurricane aftershock: It might be a prime time to SELL your used car. People who lost theirs in the floods are looking to replace them, and with so many damaged, good used vehicles are harder to come by.

If you have suspicions about a vehicle you’re thinking of buying, you can check its history for free through the Des Plaines-based National Insurance Crime Bureau's VINCheck.