October 5, 2005
ATTORNEY GENERAL WARNS USED CAR BUYERS TO BE WARY
OF FLOOD-DAMAGED VEHICLES AFTER HURRICANES
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. advises consumers to
be aware that cars damaged by flood waters in the Gulf
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could end up in the used car market
Cars that are damaged by flood water and totaled by insurance
companies should be sold as salvage or for parts. However some
end up in
the hands of unethical wholesalers and dealers who may give them
a cosmetic cleanup and sell them at auctions, retitle them and
sell them to unsuspecting buyers.
Flood damage may not be apparent, but it can wreak havoc on a car," Curran
said. Being submerged in contaminated flood water and mud can damage
a car’s electrical systems and safety equipment such as anti-lock
brakes and airbags.
Curran said used car buyers can do three things to avoid buying
a flood-damaged car:
• Always take a car you are considering buying to a mechanic for
an inspection, and ask the mechanic to check for possible flood
• Get a vehicle history report from one of the companies that offer
this service online, to see whether a flood-damaged title has been
issued for the car.
• Check for telltale signs such as: a smell of mildew in the car,
or a strong deodorant smell that may be used to try to hide it;
a water line along the upholstery or door panels, in the engine
compartment or trunk; signs of moisture in the dashboard; mud or
sand in crevices or in the carpet; and electrical problems, such
as a power window that works poorly.
Consumers who believe they have purchased a flood-damaged car
can call the Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662. Car
dealers in Maryland are required to disclose water damage in vehicles.