Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a consumer alert advising Michigan residents to exercise caution before purchasing their next used car to avoid being scammed into purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle. The warning comes amid an influx of flood-damaged vehicles on the national automotive market in the wake of Superstorm Sandy's devastation.
"Michigan consumers should do their homework before they buy their next used car to avoid being duped by dealers selling refurbished cars without mentioning prior flood damages caused by Superstorm Sandy," said Schuette. "Floodwaters can destroy vital car components, so I urge all consumers to proceed with caution before spending their hard-earned cash on a waterlogged clunker."
Schuette suggests prospective used car buyers take the following steps to avoid becoming a victim, including:
1. Seek independent inspection - Flood damage may be hard to spot and spending a few extra dollars for a competent automotive technician (with no relation to the seller) to examine the car can make all the difference.
2. Research the vehicle's history - There are many resources that provide vehicle history indicating whether the vehicle was in a flood region or issued a salvage title. Consult the free National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website. (link below)
3. Be aware of flood damage signs - To spot signs of flood damage, look for the vehicle having a mold smell, residue in the trunk, or premature rusting where it is not expected.
4. Review the vehicle's paper title before purchase - Look for terms like "flood," "salvage," or other brands labeling the car as damaged. But beware; never assume a clean title proves the vehicle is undamaged. The title may have been 'laundered' across state lines or altered to conceal the brand.
Attorney General Schuette's consumer protection alert, "Beware of Buying a Flood-Damaged Vehicle", is available online. (link below)
Residents who believe they may have been tricked into buying a flood-damaged vehicle from a used motor vehicle dealer are encouraged to file complaints online with the Secretary of State, Bureau of Information Security Regulatory Monitoring Division. (link below)
If consumers believe they have purchased a flood-damaged vehicle from an individual, they may also contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division toll-free: 887-765-8388. Before filing any complaint, Schuette recommends consumers first obtain supporting documentation, including an independent expert vehicle inspection and comprehensive records of vehicle history.