FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 29, 2000
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. has announced a new aid to consumers shopping for a used car: a database of more than 8,000 cars whose titles were branded as "flood" or "water-damaged" in North Carolina, but which might show up in Maryland with clean titles. The database is maintained by the North Carolina Attorney General's Office and can be accessed from a link on Attorney General Curran's website at www.oag.state.md.us.
After massive flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd last September, many cars in North Carolina were declared totaled by insurance companies. Some of those cars may be transported out of North Carolina and retitled in other states with a new title that carries no indication of their flood damage history. North Carolina Attorney General Mike Easley decided to make the database available to help consumers in other states. The database allows consumers to check on specific VINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers), organized by automobile make, model and year.
"We applaud North Carolina for making this list available," said Attorney General Curran. "This will help consumers who might not spot the often hidden damage that flood waters wreak on a car."
Curran said that flood damage can vary depending on how much water the car sat in and for how long. Flood water is usually heavily contaminated and can affect a car's electrical system or computer. For example, air bags might deploy when they shouldn't, or not deploy when they should.
Attorney General Curran says consumers considering buying a used vehicle should always take the car to an independent mechanic for an evaluation. Obvious warning signs of flood damage may include: unusual smells inside the car, including a mildew smell or a heavy deodorizer smell; a "water line" in upholstery or door panels, or in the engine compartment or trunk; or electrical problems like a power window that only works part of the time or after coaxing the switch. Consumers who have problems with used cars they have purchased can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division Mediation Unit at (410) 528-8662.
General Curran is available to speak to the media to offer tips to consumers about buying used cars and how to avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle. He will also provide copies of the list to the media upon request.