More than 50 Porsches, five Rolls Royces and three Ferraris are among the thousands of flood-damaged and salvaged vehicles collected in a new database in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and Division of Consumer Affairs has announced a partnership designed to help the public determine whether they are unknowingly purchasing a vehicle damaged by the storm.
According to a release from the Attorney General's Office, there was a 6,000 percent spike in flood-damaged and salvage vehicle titles throughout the past three months, following the storm.
According to state law, if a vehicle has suffered such damage that it is not practical to repair or it has been declared a loss by the insurer, the owner of the car is required to surrender the title to the MVC, which issues a salvage title for it.
The only way for someone to then purchase the vehicle, the law says, is if it has a salvage title—which means it cannot be driven on public highways—or it has been repaired and inspected by the MVC.
A vehicle that has not been deemed a total loss must have the phrase "Flood Vehicle" placed on the title, or manufacturer's statement of origin if it is a new vehicle.
To help buyers know if they are inheriting problems from a hurricane-damaged vehicle, the release said, the MVC and Consumer Affairs have launched a new database that can be accesed to help determine whether a vehicle was damaged because of flooding or other means.
All vehicles processed will be given a vehicle identification number, and buyers can use that to determine the status of the cars they might be looking to buy.
At this point, more than 13,000 vehicles that were processed as either flood- or salvage-titled since Oct. 27, 2012 are posted in that database, which can be accessed by clicking here.
"With so many vehicles that were damaged by the recent storm potentially being resold in the future, it's important that the public be well-informed about what to look for when shopping," said MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez in the release. "Having easy access to this information allows buyers to protect themselves against individuals who would try to circumvent the law and not full disclose the true condition of a vehicle."
According to the release, it is not illegal to sell a vehicle in this condition, but there are requirements in place to ensure that potential buyers are aware of any problems that may exist.
"Anyone who attempts to hide the fact that a car or truck has a flood-damaged or salvage title from potential buyers is breaking the law," Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in the release. "We will go after those who attempt to enrich themselves by defrauding consumers into believing a vehicle is problem free when, in fact, it has a flood-damaged or salvage title."
This newly created database is being done as a joint effort between the MVC and Division of Consumer Affairs.
"The new flood-damaged vehicle database is a natural extension of what we seek to do at the Division of Consumer Affairs—make information that is important to consumers widely available," Eric Kanefsky, acting director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said in the release. "The Division and the MVC both want consumers to know the facts about flood-titled and salvage-titled vehicles so they can make an informed buying decision."
According to the release, consumers are advised to look for several different points before purchasing a used vehicle. They are:
- Check the title history of the vehicle and be wary if it has been titled multiple times in a short period of time.
- Get a vehicle history report from the dealer.
- Look for an insurance company's name on the title history, and contact them for information about the vehicle.
In addition, the release said, consumers should have a trusted mechanic perform a pre-purchase inspection on any used vehicles.
Signs the vehicle may have sustained flood damage, the release said, are:
- A musty or moldy smell, or a very heavy scent of deodorizer in the car;
- Rust on pieces where water might not usually touch;
- Water-stained upholstery or damage on door panels and seat belts and;
- Mildew, silt or debris around the engine compartment, under carpeting or in the trunk.