TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network -Attorney General…

TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network -Attorney General Charlie Crist today issued a consumer alert cautioning Floridians against buying used vehicles that may have been flood-damaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. As many as 600,000 vehicles throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida may have
been affected by the storms and are now being shipped to other states by
auto wholesalers.

A flooded car is the personal property of the owner and it is not
illegal to sell it, but both the buyer and the seller should be aware that
the car has been flooded. Some sellers may try to scam the buyer by
concealing the car?s water damage, and the buyer would end up with a car
that has serious problems caused by the flood water.

?Citizens should be extra careful when buying an automobile,
especially a used car,? said Crist. ?By concealing the damage, unethical
individuals can pass a car off as a good bargain, when in fact it is
nothing more than a water-soaked lemon. If a deal seems too good to be
true, it probably is.?

Safety is one of the primary concerns when buying a flood-damaged
car. An unsuspecting buyer could be stuck with a car that does not function
properly and could place them and their loved ones in serious danger.
Common problems with flood cars include engines, anti-lock brake systems
and airbag systems that may malfunction, ruined electrical components and
mold and mildew throughout the air conditioner and heating systems.

Several services are available for consumers and auto dealers to
check Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to help determine if a
particular vehicle has a flood-damage record. The National Insurance Crime
Bureau has compiled a database of vehicles affected by the hurricanes,
which can be searched by the public free of charge. The database is
available at www.nicb.org. Carfax is also helping protect unsuspecting
buyers by making all of its flood information available to consumers and
dealers free of charge at www.carfax.com/flood.

Crist said consumers and dealers should be wary of someone trying to
sell a car for well below the retail value. One obvious sign is a moldy
smell from the seats and carpeting, although determined ripoff artists can
conceal this through new carpeting and interior components. Sand, silt and
salt under the carpeting is another indication that the car may be a flood
car. Buyers should also check the engine compartment, trunk, and inner
doors for silt and be aware of any electrical problems that recur or change
on a daily basis.

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