NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Experts warn that some of the hundreds of cars that were flooded out on Long Island roadways this week could eventually show up back on the market with no evidence that they had been water-logged.
When Christine Cristiana DiMonte bought a used car for her daughter it was such a good deal that she never asked to see the title to make sure that it had never suffered any flood damage. She trusted the dealer.
“I was kind of surprised that me and my husband decided to do it so spur of the moment,” she told CBS 2’s Dana Tyler.
Soaked and flooded cars, like those seen floating on Long Island roadways this week, are usually headed for the junk yard. They’re nearly worthless due to electrical damage. When sold at auction the title is supposed to be stamped to reflect the flood damage, but scammers are fixing up the flooded junkers so they’ll run for a few months, while finding ways to hide the damage.
“There’s something called a title wash where you buy a car, change the VIN numbers, now all of a sudden a vehicle that was written off looks like it was just damaged,” Robert Sinclair, AAA New York, explained.
Experts say a switched title is nearly impossible to trace, and that potential buyers should not only ask to see the title, but check for signs of rust on any metal. They should also look for clues that the interior has been changed to disguise flood damage.
“Some of the signs will be like moldy smells or maybe a strong aroma of air fresheners,” John Tirpan, TNT Automotive, said.
Tirpan said that before buying a used car, even with a clean title, that buyers should search under the seats and the upholstery, and pull out panels to look for water damage. Tirpan said that any dealer who won’t let a buyer inspect a vehicle should raise alarm bells.
“You’re going to get your suspicions up, ya know, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to walk away,” he said.
To really be sure, Tirpan suggests having an independent mechanic check out the car.
Once you choose a used vehicle that you feel comfortable with experts suggest buying comprehensive auto insurance so it will be covered for any future flood events.
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