Some of the estimated 230-thousand vehicles damaged by Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast last fall, are now being sold across the country as undamaged. A few dozen have made it to Oregon.
As of July, the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles has had title applications for 39 vehicles damaged in the storm. Most came from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Often buyers are aware that a vehicle has been damaged in some way, but they may be unaware of the type of damage. They only discover the vhicle's history when they get a new title with a"flood damage" brand, or a "totaled" brand.
"The problem with flood-damaged vehicles is that they can be cleaned up to appear undamaged," says DMV Administrator Tom McClellan. "But water damage can lead to severe mechanical and electrical problems, mold growth and other problems that can show up later - especially with the effects of salt water."
Unscrupulous sellers prey on customers looking for a bargain. "Anytime a deal sounds too good to be true. it usually is," says DMV Business Regulation Manager Chris Ratliff. "That's particularly true of cars."
People shopping for used cars need to be extra cautious, especially when looking a vehicles titled on the East Coast. They should :
- Inspect the vehicle for signs of water, mud and sand, along with corrosion or residue in carpet and upholstery. If possible, check the glove box, look inside the dash and tail light fixtures.
- Hire a professional mechanic to inspect the vehicle before purchase.
- Ask the seller to show you the title or ownership document, and check for brand notations, such as "salvage" or "flooded".
- Shop for a used vehicle among license auto dealers. You can find out whether a dealer is licensed by visitng the Business Section at www.OregonDMV.com.
Also, check the vehicle's identification number, or "VIN" with the online registry at the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Other tools include:
To report fraud involving the sale of a damaged car:
www.doj.state.or.us OR www.oregon.gov/DOJ