SOS: Used car buyers beware

ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- Hurricane Harvey's catastrophic impact may continue locally for some time. Countless cars submerged in flooded streets are being shipped out and making their way on the market for sale.

The expected surge prompted the Secretary of State's office to issue a warning to consumers. Car experts have tips on protecting yourself from buying damaged goods.

While hurricane season leaves millions devastated with little left, auctioneers are stocking up, buying flooded cars and putting them back on the market.

"Those cars will go to the market. You won't see them tomorrow. They're not going to show up next week. But, as time moves on, as people start selling those cars, they will show up in the market."

Car dealer Mylas Copeland says this isn't a new phenomenon.

"We saw it after Hurricane Katrina. We're going to see it after Harvey and it will show up after Irma."

But, if you're careful, he says you can get ahead of a trap others won't see coming.

"Buy from a reputable dealership. Buy from someone you know is doing their homework. If you can't, if you're not, then you really want to pay attention to what you're looking at."

Discolored carpet, rust lines and a pungent smell are always obvious signs of flood damage. But, there's one major sign you may not notice at first.

"The biggest tip is when you start to see strange electrical problems popping up. I mean, weird stuff, lights flashing off and on, doors that unlock themselves, all kinds of strange stuff."

Bob Hartman has worked on cars his entire life. He says electric issues in new cars could be dangerous.

"It could kill the engine. Engine dies, you got loss of everything, loss of power brakes, loss of power steering. That could absolutely play a factor in a crash."

The fix is costly. To avoid the burden, Hartman says check underneath the car for rust.

"You know, you'll see levels where the water came up to. That's a good indication that car's been under water."  

Experts warn some cars aren't totaled during flooding and may not be considered damaged on Carfax. It's important to look at all factors when buying a car or you could be left with a burden of expensive repairs.

The Secretary of State's office is requiring extra screenings for vehicles coming from flood areas. Applicants must submit a hurricane disclosure statement to get a clean Illinois title.

Consumers are encouraged to visit cyberdriveillinois.com to find a database of known hurricane-damaged vehicles. As many as 500,000 vehicles are counted as damaged.

 

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