Experts warn about hurricane-damaged cars put up for sale

- For vehicle technicians and mechanics - including those at Jaguar Land Rover Minneapolis - everyone is on high alert for potentially flood and hurricane damaged cars.

“We have to make sure when we except a car in for repairs that we give a thorough inspection, so we can try to catch some of these problems prior,” said service director John Huser. “It's equally important when it comes in on trade.”

Technician James Becker walked Fox 9 through some of the signs he looks for to see if a car has been submerged. This includes checking as much of the electrical work as possible, corrosion, fluid levels, plus scouring for water lines anywhere starting within the wheel arches. Becker said weeds, grass or mud in a place it shouldn't be can be one of the biggest red flags indicating a vehicle has been through a flood.

“I’ve even seen water come down where the seatbelt comes out when you pull down,” Becker said.

The Department of Justice recently put out a warning that reads in part, “due to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, as many as 1 million flood-damaged vehicles could potentially be passed onto unsuspecting buying in the coming weeks and months.”

“It's very risky to buy from a private individual from this environment,” said Scott Lambert, president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association.

Lambert points to a 2014 report by Cars.com highlighting 12 states that do not participate in the national title database, meaning that flooded out vehicles bought at auction often go through those areas in what's known as "title washing."

“If you wash the car through that state, you are going to end up with a clean title," said Lambert.

Selling a car in Minnesota with that kind of damage and not disclosing it is illegal.

It may be six months to more than a year down the road before problems show up, and by then the seller will likely be long gone.
               
“These cars will get bought, they will replace what they have to make it presentable to somebody, and somebody is going to buy a problem, said Huser.

For more tips on how to avoid purchasing a damaged vehicle, click here.

Huser also recommends using carfax.com.

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