Experts warn of flood damaged used cars in wake of Hurricane Sandy

POSTED: Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 9:00am

UPDATED: Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 9:04am

Just like in hurricanes past, Sandy left behind lots of soaked and sand-filled cars.

"The estimate is there is at least 16,000 new cars that were damaged and up to 250,000 used cars," notes Edmunds.com's Philip Reed.

Unfortunately, many of those will end up back on the market.

Reed warns that unscrupulous sellers often use the illegal procedure known as "title washing".

They'lll move the once-flooded car far from New York or New Jersey, then sell it.

"The number one thing for anyone looking to buy a used car is to pull a vehicle history report," he advises.

Outfits like Carfax or Autocheck can do that for you.

Also, let a mechanic you trust take a look at it.

At the very least, inspect the car yourself and include a smell test.

"The odor, because when a car sits in standing water, particularly in salt water, that car will take on a smell that's very difficult to get rid of," Reed says.

Look for debris or water lines inside the car, the trunk and engine compartment.

Dingy headlights and tail lights could be a hint the car's been underwater was well.

Keep in mind, there's nothing illegal about selling a once-flooded car provided you know that before buying.

"And if you can get a really, really good deal on it, it might still be a good buy for you," Reed says.

But if you have doubts, don't get soaked.

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