November 25, 2014

DOT warns car shoppers to watch out for flood damage

The state Department of Transportation says vehicles damaged by the flooding from Hurricane Sandy could start showing up in Wisconsin soon.

Linda Lewis with the state Division of Motor Vehicles says buyers should be wary of any used car that’s coming from the northeastern US. The major concern is vehicles that were salvaged after the flooding, and then cleaned up for resale.

Issues such as a lingering musty smell, rust in unusual places, and mud under light covers are all warning signs a car may have been submerged in a flood. Lewis says that type of damage can cause long term problems with a vehicle, such as shorting out electrical systems.

Lewis says there could be tens of thousands of vehicles that were totaled out by insurance companies after Sandy swept through earlier this year. While such a designation would show up on a vehicle’s title history, she says there is about a 30 day delay in those updates going through. Consumers are urged to check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which is available through the state DOT’s website.

If you discover a used car has undisclosed flood damage after it’s purchased, contact the DOT if it came from a dealer. If it was sold by a private seller, Lewis says you will likely have to take them to court.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)