Attorney General warns of flood-damaged cars for sale

Attorney General Bill Schuette is urging those looking to purchase a used car to look into the vehicle's history, as cars that were flood-damaged by Superstorm Sandy are being sold nationwide.

Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a consumer alert today advising Michigan residents to be careful before buying their next used car.

The warning comes amid an influx of flood-damaged cars on the market in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

"Michigan consumers should do their homework before they buy their next used car to avoid being duped by dealers selling refurbished cars without mentioning prior flood damages caused by Superstorm Sandy," Schuette said.

The Attorney General warns that flooding can destroy vital car components.

"I urge all consumers to proceed with caution before spending their hard-earned cash on a waterlogged clunker," Schuette said.

Here are some steps suggested by Schuette to avoid falling victim to the scam:

  1. Seek independent inspection - Flood damage may be hard to spot and spending a few extra dollars for a competent automotive technician (with no relation to the seller) to examine the car can make all the difference.

  2. Research the vehicle's history - There are many resources that provide car history indicating whether the car was in a flood region or issued a salvage title. Consult the free National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

  3. Be aware of flood damage signs - To spot signs of flood damage, look for the vehicle having a mold smell, residue in the truck, or premature rusting where it is not expected.

  4. Review the vehicle's paper title before purchase - Look for terms like "flood," "salvage," or other brands labeling the car as damaged. But beware; never assume a clean title proves the car is undamaged. The title may have been 'laundered' across state lines or altered to conceal the brand.

Residents who believe they may have been tricked into buying a flood-damaged car from a used car dealer are encouraged to file complaints online with the Secretary of State, Bureau of Information Security Regulatory Monitoring Division.

You can also contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 887-765-8388.

Before filing a complaint, Schuette recommends consumers first obtain supporting documentation, including an independent expert car inspection and comprehensive records of car history.