Beware of hurricane-damaged cars sold in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The South is still grappling with damage from hurricanes that hit parts of Texas, Florida, and Georgia, and soon we might feel some effects in Pennsylvania.

Hundreds of thousands of cars damaged in floods could be sold here. David Buono, the state Insurance Department’s consumer liaison, showed us what to look for.

“You see how the headlamps have a lot of moisture on them?” Buono pointed out on a flood-damaged car. “That could be caused from flood damage.”

Buono can spot damage from the outside of a car, but we don’t all work for the state’s insurance department.

“Just some discoloration in the metal; that could be caused from flood damage,” Buono said as he continued to point out signs.

He suggests getting under the hood.

“If there is a bunch of mud in there, debris in there, pieces of wood in there, tree limbs, you kind of have to wonder, how did that get in there unless the vehicle may have been involved in a flood,” he said.

“You need to do your homework,” said Kurt Myers, PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services.

Myers says up to a million cars were damaged in hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In the upcoming months, he says many people may try to sell those cars in Pennsylvania, which is legal as long as the car is labeled as having flood damage.

“It’s important that consumers understand that flood damage vehicles are worth less than vehicles that weren’t damaged in a flood,” Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Your insurer will pay claims accordingly.”

Unfortunately, not everyone is so honest in advertising flood-damaged cars. The U.S. Justice Department found after Hurricane Katrina, many cars were resold without airbags.

“If you see something on Craigslist and it’s thousands less than it would be in the lot, you may want to think twice about that,” Buono said.

A good rule of thumb is to do the dirty work and take a hard look before you buy.

“A lot of times folks will sell them and they’ll work completely fine,” Buono said, “but then in six months, they’ll start having problems, whether that be with the electrical systems or the airbags.”

For a full checklist of flood damage signs, visit the Insurance Department’s website.

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