Md. AG Warning Used Car Buyers of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

October 6, 2005

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. is advising consumers to be aware that cars damaged by flood waters in the Gulf region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could end up in the used car market in Maryland.

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 damage.

* 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.

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