Cars damaged by Sandy make suspicious comeback

A car that was buried in sand that was washed in from Hurricane Sandy on October 31, 2012 in Long Beach Island, N.J.

Remember the “Smelly Car” episode of "Seinfeld"? It’s the one where Jerry lets a valet at a restaurant park his car only to find out that the man’s BO is so bad the smell sticks around after he’s gone – permanently. Typical Seinfeldian antics ensue: Jerry locks a Maître d in car so that he can appreciate the smell and hopefully pay to clean the car. But in the end, the smell can't be vanquished, and Jerry abandons his car.
That was the sitcom version of automotive distress. In reality, Hurricane Sandy was much more damaging. But many of the 200,000 cars that were damaged haven’t been abandoned. Instead, they’re sold for scrap or sometimes to dishonest buyers who are hoping to make a bundle.  

Chris Basso, who works with CarFax.com, a website that sells vehicle histories, explains that some of the buyers are straight up criminals.

“These are professional con men that do this for a living,” he says.

According to Basso, the storm-damaged cars are bought, cleaned up (enough), as are the records for the car so that there's no mention of storm damage.
“They’re able to manipulate the documents needed to get a clean title,” he says.
The process is called title washing, and Basso says it could affect one out of every five cars damaged by the storm. Especially when those cars are moved to states like Arizona and Mississippi, which have some of the weakest title requirements.

Frank Scafidi, who works with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, says it’s a case of buyer beware.  “If you’ve been shopping for a specific used vehicle and all of the sudden you see one you want and the price is drastically lower than you’re used to, that’s kind of a clue, ” he says.
Chris Basso advises buyers to check the car’s history for evidence of flood damage on sites like Carfax. So do what Seinfeld should have done before he handed over his keys. Take a good deep whiff to make sure nothing smells fishy.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
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As a lifetime Long Island resident Sandy hit me and my family pretty hard. My car was under about 4 ft of water and completely rotted by the time the water receded and I could get to fixing it up. An auto parts company that has a warehouse in Long Island reached out to a bunch of residents in the flood hit areas and gave us parts to help get our lives back together basically for nothing. They are www.CarPartKings.com - and I will use them till the day I die. I couldn't imagine a better whole hearted company to deal with then to help out people in need when they are suffering. They let us have these auto parts and I will be forever grateful.

This is rather sad to see news like this. We have heard about this from our clients, and they know of people who have been conned with car parts sold from Hurricane Sandy affected cars. I know some were on the verge of buying cars that were later found out to be storm-damaged, and needed extensive repair. Instead of buying it cheaply, the cars became more and more expensive, due to the repairs and replacements of car parts and accessories (http://www.carid.com). Thus, it is best to buy a car from an authorized dealer or reseller.

United States had a bitter experience of the natural calamity Sandy. Due to Sandy America has witnessed and suffered a great loss of life and property. Many cars have been damaged and they are making a suspicious comeback into the market. This car will definitely create their own image as they are returning with full preparation by redesigning themselves. The above writer also advices people to check whether all the details of the cars damaged by flood or hurricanes.

The National Automobile Dealers Association Offers 10 Inspection Tips to Detect Flood-Damaged Vehicles

1. Check the vehicle’s title history by VIN through commercially available vehicle history reports from Experian’s Auto Check (www.autocheck.com), or through the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VinCheck (https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck). The report may state whether a vehicle has sustained flood damage.

2. Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.

3. Check for recently shampooed carpet.

4. Look under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.

5. Inspect for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for any evidence of fading.

6. Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.

7. Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where the water would normally not reach unless submerged.

8. Look for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.

9. Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.

10. Inspect the undercarriage of other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late model vehicles.

-Bailey Wood, NADA

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