NC warns consumers to be careful of flood-damaged cars

Flooding in Brunswick County. (State of North Carolina)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina drivers should be careful when it comes to purchasing cars, especially after the recent flooding across the Carolinas, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned Wednesday.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of these terrible floods as they work to recover,” Cooper said in a statement. “Unfortunately, storms can continue to do harm when consumers get tricked into buying flooded cars.”

The Attorney General’s office said vehicles that have been hit by floods are frequently cleaned, and that can make it difficult for prospective buyers to detect even serious damage.

Flooding in Brunswick County. (State of North Carolina)
PHOTOS: Flooding in North Carolina

Under North Carolina law, the state said, flood damage to a car must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. Vehicles that have been partially or totally submerged in water resulting in damage to the body, engine or transmission are classified as flood vehicles, but title paperwork is sometimes unlawfully altered to remove any mention of flood damage, the state said in a news release.

Failure to disclose damage to a vehicle is a class 2 misdemeanor prosecutable by local District Attorneys, and violators of the law can face civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

“If you’re in the market for a car in the coming weeks or months, be on high alert for flood cars,” Cooper said.

To avoid buying a flood-damaged car, the Attorney General’s office said buyers should:

  • Ask the seller directly if the car has been damaged in any way, including by storms or flooding.
  • Consider getting a complete vehicle history report.
  • Request a copy of the title for any used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the vehicle comes from a state that recently experienced flooding.
  • Have the car examined by an independent mechanic.
  • Avoid buying a car over the Internet if you haven’t seen it in person.
  • Check for rust and mud in the trunk, glove box, and dashboard and beneath the seats.
  • Look for rusty brackets under the dash and carpet, discolored upholstery, and mismatched carpet.
  • Test electronics like headlights, windshield wipers, turn signals, power outlet, and radio.
  • Run the heater and air conditioner, and look in the vents for signs of water or mud.
  • Make sure all gauges on the dashboard are working accurately.

If you believe that you may have unknowingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle, report it to our Consumer Protection Division by phone, toll-free within North Carolina, at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. Consumers can also get tips on auto damage disclosure and file a consumer complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

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