Is that used car a hurricane car, damaged in Hurricane Harvey? It’s a question every potential used car buyer should be asking, according to Senator Chuck Schumer. The cars may not look damaged, and may be marketed as “like new,” said Schumer in a recent statement.
“Last year, more than 600,000 cars were damaged from floodwaters during hurricane season, some of which were without insurance. Many of these vehicles have since ended up in used car lots. Because these cars did not have insurance, there is a high likelihood that potential buyers are purchasing flood-damaged cars without a full knowledge of their operating history,” said Schumer.
The hurricane-damaged cars come with the built-in potential for sustaining serious, and dangerous, mechanical or electrical failure. Schumer wants the FTC to figure out how to protect consumers from this scourge. Meantime, buyers should watch for the following signs that a car has been damaged in a hurricane:
- Stained, musty-smelling carpet, or a new carpet in an older car
- Visible water line on the headlights
- Mud or debris in hard to reach areas, for instance gaps in panels in a trunk
- Rusty screws behind the dashboard, rust on unpainted metal areas
- Missing rubber drain plugs on the underside of the car and along the bottoms of car doors which may have been removed to drain floodwaters
- Water marks or traces of mud, mold, or sand
- Mildew odor when running the air conditioning or heat
- Brittle wires under dashboard, hood, and speakers
- Pitting under the hood can mean oxidation, which looks white and powdery or may consist of tiny holes
If you’re offered a used car deal that seems too good to be true, suspect hurricane damage and give the car a thorough going over. Car owners should also be aware that parts may be scavenged from hurricane damaged cars and end up as replacement parts when you have work done on your car. You may be charged for a new part, while your mechanic substitutes these scavenged pieces to cut corners. The “new” part could end up causing car trouble, big time.