Hurricane Sandy yields a lot of flood-damaged vehicles

Prospective Car Buyers Be Wary

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, flood-damaged cars may “flood” the used car market. No matter the vehicle, Hurricane Sandy did not exclude any make or model. Cars, trucks and motorcycles have been damaged by one of the biggest storms to hit the east coast. What happens to those cars, you ask?  Many of them end up for sale in the used car market.

According to industry experts, Sandy will have a larger impact on the auto industry than Katrina. In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, approximately 640,000 vehicles in the Gulf Coast area were damaged., a vehicle history reporting service reports that many cars damaged by Hurricane Katrina are still on the market today. With Hurricane Sandy hitting a larger region based on population, we can expect history to repeat itself.

Unfortunately, flooded cars are not easily identified. Many states, such as New York and New Jersey do have laws for branding vehicles damaged by flooding. However, dishonest dealers or owners can often move cars to other states where a clean title can be issued– a practice known as “title washing.”

After Hurricane Katrina, authorities reported truckloads of flooded vehicles being taken out of the flooded states to other parts of the U.S. where they were dried out, cleaned, and readied for sale to unsuspecting consumers. Prospective purchasers of these vehicles may not have known that the vehicles had been soaked by saltwater, making the vehicles’ engine controllers, airbag systems and other electronic systems prone to failure.

So how can the average consumer check whether a vehicle for sale has been flood-damaged?   The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), a national database aggregates data from state DMVs, salvage yards, and insurance carriers into a national repository of historical records– records that cannot be “washed.” Used by law enforcement to trace vehicles across state lines, the NMVTIS database can be accessed by consumers online through, hosted by approved NMVTIS access provider Private vehicle history reporting companies like Carfax maintain an independent database and serve as an alternate source.

Of course, checking the car itself is as important as looking into historical brand records. recommends that consumers also obtain a vehicle inspection by an AES-certified mechanic and to be wary of deals that are too good to be true. The saying “trust, but verify” is best applied here.

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