WETHERSFIELD, CT - The Department of Motor Vehicles today warned consumers about purchasing new or used cars that could be flood-damaged vehicles. Consumers should be on guard for too-good-to-be-true sales occurring before warnings begin to spread about problems with such purchases.
“This is a time when consumers looking for a deal need to be especially cautious. A great deal could become a sour deal if they buy a car that’s been in a flood. Many different kinds of problems can develop,” said DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey.
Flood-damaged vehicles can enter the Connecticut market in any number of ways, ranging from those already in Connecticut to those shipped to Connecticut from other flood-ravaged states. Requirements vary state-by-state for disclosing whether a vehicle has been damaged in a flood.
The Connecticut Used Car Warranty Law prohibits dealers from making any false, misleading or deceptive statements about the condition or history of any vehicle and specifically requires the disclosure of SALVAGE (the category for flood-damages) vehicles to consumers. Dealers may not limit any statutory warranty to these vehicles or exclude them from the provisions of the Used Car Warranty Law if they would otherwise be subject to the statute. The sale of a vehicle without proper disclosure also may violate Unfair Trade Practice laws.
DMV is preparing a letter to new and used car dealers to make them aware of the problem. It will remind them of Connecticut law and ask that they properly identify any of these vehicles to any prospective customers. Violations of the law could result in the loss of a license to sell vehicles as well as civil penalties. Street sales, called casual sales from one person to another, are not governed under laws like these with significant consumer protection.
Purchasers should take these extra precautions to save time and money when buying a new or used vehicle when wanting to safeguard against owning a car that has been in a flood:
1. Buyers Beware!
While Connecticut requires vehicle titles to indicate flood damage, some wholesalers may intentionally transfer titles to avoid having the damage noted and diminish the value of the car.
2. Looks can be deceiving
While the car may look perfectly fine on the surface, there could be hidden defects that are not immediately noticeable. Flood damage can compromise the car’s computer and safety mechanisms, which pose significant safety hazards to the new owner.
3. Do your own inspection
Take the time to inspect the car for yourself:
· Check the engine for a high water mark on the block or radiator, which is a clear indication that the car has been flooded.
· Look for rust or corrosion on wires and other components under the hood.
· You should also be suspicious if the carpet smells damp and of mildew.
4. Consider where you buy
· Flooded vehicles oftentimes end up at car auctions.
· Shop at a reputable dealership.
5. Ask questions
Before buying the car, ask the dealer to obtain a report with a detailed history of the car. You should also consider taking the car to a qualified mechanic to inspect the vehicle thoroughly.
You should check on whether a new vehicle declared "FLOOD or "SALVAGE" is eligible for any future coverage under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
Comprehensive vehicle history reports are produced with the vehicle identification number (VIN) and are available for a fee from a variety of sources, including:
Anyone purchasing a new flood-damaged vehicle and has problems with it should consult with the Department of Consumer Protection Lemon Law arbitration program. Those who purchased used cars with flood damage should contact the DMV Consumer Complaint Center which reviews complaints against dealers and repairers, including the sale of used vehicles.
You can access information on the Lemon Law Program at the Consumer Protection web site at http://www.ct.gov/dcp or call a Consumer Protection investigator at 1-800-538-CARS.
The DMV Dealer and Repairer Division Consumer Complaint Center is located at 60 State Street, Wethersfield, CT 06161 and can be reached at 860-263-5405 and web information is available at http://tinyurl.com/floodcars.