To buy a car ? Beware of flood damaged vehicles after the wrath of Hurricane Ida.

Demand continues to outpace supply in the new and used car markets, largely due to a shortage of semiconductors and other supply chain issues.

Frustrated car buyers might be quick to strike a deal if they finally find the vehicle they were looking for.

But, consumer watchdogs warn, some of these cars could have been damaged by floodwater from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The storm caused water damage to around 212,000 cars across the country, according to a Carfax quote. This National Insurance Crime Bureau says Ida’s reports continue to come in, but so far it has reported more than 48,000 vehicles damaged by flooding from the storm. More than 25,000 are from New Jersey and another 14,000 are from New York, he said.

And before the storm hit, Carfax said there were already around 11,200 flood-damaged cars on the road in the state.

Vehicles could impose excessive long-term maintenance costs on buyers, watchdogs warn.

“Even though cars that have been destroyed or rebuilt after a flood tend to be cheaper, you should avoid buying a flooded vehicle,” said Jacob van Cleef, consumer watch officer associated with the PIRG Education Fund, who has published a new guide to identify flood damaged cars. “Even those that come with honest documentation could cost you a lot more in the long run. “

“When a vehicle has been flooded the owner has to say so – but unfortunately not everyone who sells a car is trustworthy,” he said.

Even if you are not a mechanic, there are many signs that an average consumer can recognize.

First, PIRG said, ask the seller for the vehicle identification number (VIN).

You can check the vehicle history through the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck. Carfax also offers a free flood control the car’s VIN.

Make sure the VIN on the car dashboard matches the number given to you.

Then use an odor test.

“Be wary if there is an air freshener in the car and see if you can smell anything musty or earthy in nature. Some people compare the smell of mold to that of sweaty socks, ”PIRG said.

You should also check under the carpets and seats for anything unusual, like water spots or sand.

Next, examine any exposed metal to make sure it doesn’t rust, like uncovered screws. Peel off the rubber housings around the electrical and mechanical connections.

“Materials containing iron may show signs of rust; materials containing copper may have a green residue; materials containing aluminum and alloys may exhibit a white powder, ”the National Insurance Crime Bureau said.

Look for signs of moisture buildup in the headlights and see if there is a visible waterline left inside the car.

“On the other hand, the used car shouldn’t look like it’s filled with new, clean parts. If you see that everything you are checking is new in this used car, you should check with the seller why they just replaced so much, ”PIRG said. “Even though the car has been thoroughly cleaned, the flood damage that you can’t see probably still exists, so the car shouldn’t be bought.”

If nothing sounds suspicious, take the car for a spin and see how it drives.

Finally, have a trusted professional take a look at the car before making the purchase.

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Karin Price Mueller can be contacted at

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