Pennsylvania ranked third in the United States when it comes to the amount of previously flooded cars it has on the road, reports WPXI 11.
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It’s legal to sell these vehicles, but some criminals target consumers who have no ideas about the damage, especially after disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
WPXI 11 Investigates’ Katherine Amenta spoke with CARFAX in Virginia on how customers can protect themselves and their money.
The 52 inches that fell during Hurricane Harvey rotted and rusted everything in the Houston area. There were thousands of cars underwater and were assumed a total loss.
According 11 Investigated however, close to have of those seemingly destroyed cars have been revived and could be in Pittsburgh area.
“When they get into the hands of people who want to rip you off, they’re moving these cars around the country,” Chris Basso, a public relations manager for CARFAX told 11 Investigates. “(Thieves are) getting clean titles and reselling them to unsuspecting customers who are losing thousands of dollars.”
CARFAX employees at the corporate office are spreading the word about bogus sellers and online scammers. It’s not illegal to sell a flooded car, but the vehicle must be properly documented. It’s the documentation part where thieves usually fall short. According to Basso, scammers could forge the title and tidy up the vehicle just enough so it looks good. In those instances, the buyer is driving a car that will inevitably break down.
“If you don’t know what you’re buying, you could be in a heap of trouble,” he said.
As an example, Basso showed 11 Investigates a flooded car to see the warning signs. The car looks OK at first glance, but a closer look reveals the vehicle is anything but.
Basso recommended checking the headlights and the taillights. If there is water inside, there’s a good chance the vehicle had been underwater. Buyers should smell inside the car too; a musty scent is another indicator there’s been water damage. Also look underneath the steering wheel near the pedals, under the hood by the engine and the rotors for rust and corrosion.
It’s also wise to check the car’s CARFAX before buying it. Be sure to take it for a test drive to check for issues with the transmission, safety features or dashboard lights. Then get an independent mechanic inspect the car, too. CARFAX is offering free vehicle identification number (VIN) checks because of all flood-damaged cars due to the hurricanes in 2017 on its website.
Customers who feel they may have been sold a water-damaged car may contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General Office to file a complaint.
Lemon law attorneys help their clients by dealing directly with the manufacturer on the clients’ behalf, working to promptly resolve the issue and get their clients back on the road. Thanks to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, attorneys can seek their fees directly from the manufacturer, meaning a client can obtain legal counsel without having to pay attorneys’ fees directly out of pocket.