Hurricane Sandy damaged cars now reaching Michigan used car lots

What to look for in a wate- damaged car

(WXYZ) - Hurricane Sandy happened in October 2012, but the thousands of cars it damaged are just now hitting the lots at used car dealers. Michigan is near the top of the re-sell list.

It's estimated that more than 200-thousand cars were damaged in Hurricane Sandy. About half will end up at auctions and then onto used car lots.

Twenty-three year old Antoinette Daka bought a 2009 Dodge Avenger for $10,000 from a used car lot in Redford, Michigan. It was love at first test drive.

"I was very excited when I first purchased it, " Antoinette tells 7 Action News."

But soon after the purchase, something went wrong.

"It wasn't accelerating right."

Antoinette relies on her car everyday. It not only gets her the 20 miles back and forth to work, but she serves as a carpool driver for her co-workers. 

She called the used car dealer where she purchased the car to have them check it out.

"They wanted nothing to do with it. I heard too bad for you."

Antoinette took her new used car to a Dodge dealer where a certified mechanic diagnosed the problem: a water damaged transmission. Antoinette couldn't afford a new transmission and opted for a used one costing $2,000.

Antoinette didn't get a car history with her purchase, so it's not known if the Avenger was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but it serves as a good reminder that  flooded cars are on Michigan used car lots right now.

"Some dealers will try to fool a consumer into buying a car that is flood damaged without them realizing it and they'll use methods such as title washing," says Kars4Kids spokesperson Steven Weldler.

Title washing is fraud, but it's a well-known practice. Here's how it works: After a car is damaged by flooding, insurance companies will scrap them or sell them for parts. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 250,500 cars were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It's estimated about half were saved and then sold to insurance auction houses with a "flood title."

Kars4Kids, a New Jersey charity that takes in car donations, has been carefully tracking where their donations end up.  The charity claims data from insurance auction houses shows Michigan is third on the list of where hurricane sandy damaged cars end up.  Click here for the list.

Steven Weldler tells 7 Action News there are a few states, like Colorado and Vermont that do not offer "flood titles,"

Shady dealers will get the car re-titled in those states and sell them in states like Michigan with a clear title, and they'll ask full price for a car that's worth only 25-percent of the value.

It's too late for Antoinette, but if you are looking for a new used car, here's a list provided by Kars4Kids on what to look for to determine if it has been damaged by a natural disaster, like Hurricane Sandy.

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