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AG's Office Issues Warning About Flood-Damaged Cars

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In the wake of major flooding caused by recent hurricanes, Attorney General Roy Cooper is warning consumers in the market for a new or used car to watch out for flood-damaged vehicles.

"Thousands of cars have been flooded in storms this hurricane season, and it won't be long before these vehicles start appearing for sale across our state," said Cooper. "Flooded cars are often shipped to places hundreds of miles from areas hit by storms, and consumers need to be on guard so they won't get stuck with a damaged car."

While there are many legitimate dealers in automobile sales, there are also some unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicle's true history.

Before being sold, flooded vehicles are put through a cleaning process that can make it difficult to tell initially that the car has been damaged. Water damage may not be immediately apparent and can take weeks to appear in some cases.

Flooding is one of the many ways that storms can damage cars. Consumers should also keep a watchful eye for cars that may have been hit by falling trees and debris and then poorly repaired, Cooper warned.

To decrease your chances of buying a flood-damaged car, follow these tips:

  • Ask the seller directly whether the car has been damaged by water or anything else.
  • Check for a damp or musty odor inside the vehicle and in the trunk.
  • Check for signs of rust and mud in the trunk, glove box and beneath the seats and dashboard. Look for rusty brackets under the dash and carpet, discolored upholstery and carpet that fits poorly or doesn't match exactly.
  • Make sure all gauges on the dashboard are accurate and in working condition.
  • Test everything: the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter and radio.
  • Check the heater and air conditioner several times. Look in the vents for signs of water or mud.
  • Before you buy a used car, have it inspected by a mechanic you trust.
  • Ask to see the title of any used car: Check the date and place of transfer to see if the vehicle might have come from a state that recently experienced flooding. Keep in mind that the title will only indicate flood damage if the insurance company officially totaled the car. Also, consider checking a vehicle's history with a service such as
  • CarFax.com.

    Consumers who believe that they may have unwittingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle can report it to the Attorney General's Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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