Used car-buyers to be wary of flood-damaged vehicles

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Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is reminding consumers that when buying a used car, it is always important to check the vehicle’s history – especially if the car may have been exposed to flood damage.

Flood damage can cause wide-ranging mechanical problems that may manifest long after the seller of a car has gone.  Engines may begin to stall or fail in traffic.  Electronic components may corrode and cease to function.  Anti-lock brakes, airbags, and other components may fail and compromise the vehicle’s safety. 

Flooded cars may also pose allergy risks due to mold and mildew, or the risk of dangerous pathogens after having been exposed to contaminated floodwaters.

Chiesa noted that, under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, it is illegal to advertise a car for sale without disclosing past damage or failing to disclose past rental or fleet use of a vehicle.

The Division of Consumer Affairs offers the following Tips on Buying a Used Car:  

Look for the Used Car Buyer’s Guide, which must be posted in plain view on the car. The guide will describe the warranty, or state whether the car is offered without a warranty.

Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if their records indicate the car has been damaged in the past.

Test drive the car, listen for noises, and make sure all gauges, lights, air conditioning and electronic systems work. Look for signs of water or accident damage, or unusual tire wear which may indicate an alignment problem.

Remember that it’s unlawful for the seller to misrepresent the vehicle’s mechanical condition or fail to disclose any material defect in the mechanical condition which is known to the dealer.

If you don’t like the deal being offered or if you feel pressured, simply walk away.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website at or by calling (800) 242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.


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