After hurricanes, Consumer Affairs warns of possible flood-damaged vehicles


COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- As the end of the year gets closer South Carolina Consumer Affairs officials said now is when scammers discount flood-damaged cars and resell them to buyers.

Carrie Grube Lybarker with the agency said if the price for the car seems too good to be true, it's probably a scam. She recommends requesting a carfax. "Unfortunately, mother nature blessed the states with a couple of hurricanes this year," Lybarker said. "Whether they disclose that it is a flood-damaged vehicle, just be aware that if something does happen to it down the line, you're buying as is."

Lybarker said the agency hadn't seen a lot of complaints, but it’s important they try to bring awareness. She said sometimes people might not know if they’ve purchased a flood-damaged vehicle.

Every state has different laws when it comes to disclosing whether the car is damaged. "In South Carolina, we have a very high threshold for that,” Lybarker said. “To where it probably will not be reported, but you want to check those sources because the vehicle could be coming from Texas after hurricane Harvey and so they may have some laws that may protect you."

After hurricane Harvey and Irma, Kelly Blue Book estimates that more than 500,000 cars are flooded throughout Houston and more than 150,000 in Florida. Those numbers are likely to impact national availability.

Stephen Nuttall owns Nuttall’s Tires in Columbia. He said it’s important to have the car inspected. "One of the first things you want to do is go through all of the electronics on a vehicle,” Nuttall said. “You want to make sure everything works like it's supposed to, all of your signals, the radio, the air conditioning."

Things the previous owner may have covered up. Nuttall said the previous owner wouldn't be able to remove all the dirt and mud that a flood vehicle would have.

Nuttall said no matter what, it's better to know the history. Which could, in the long run, save you some money. "Water shrinks carpet so that would be one thing to try and look for as well,” Nuttall said. “If you've got shrinkage in the carpet that's a good sign that it’s been wet."

Anyone who unknowingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle can contact consumer affairs. You can do so by clicking here.

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