SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Consumer advocates and car experts are warning that flood-damaged cars from the Midwest are on their way west, destined to be resold to unsuspecting buyers in California and other western states.

“They’ll move them as far away from the flood damage area as possible to areas where people aren’t suspecting that a car could be flood damaged,” said Larry Gameche of Carfax.

Gameche said damaged vehicles generally start hitting the used-car market three to six months after a disaster. “The earliest cars damaged this flood season are starting to hit the market now,” he said.

Consumer advocate Rosemary Shahan shares his concern. Shahan said flood-damaged cars are dangerous and can be deadly.

>>National Motor Vehicle Title Information System

“The brakes may not work. It may stall in traffic. Today’s cars have all these electronics and once they’re submerged, those electronic components are hopelessly compromised,” Shahan told CBS 5 Consumerwatch.

Shahan said used car shopper should look out for warning signs which can include water or condensation in the head or taillights, a musty smell or water in the spare tire well.

El Cerrito used-car dealer Paul Weinberger steers away from flood damaged cars by checking a vehicle’s history online before purchasing it for resale. Weinberger said he advises buyers who come to his lot to do the same. He also recommends buyers take any car they’re considering purchasing to an outside mechanic for a look.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. Kiddo Young says:

    “Consumer advocate Rosemary Shahan shares his concern.”

    HIS concern? I’ve never met a dude named Rosemary.

    1. Steve says:

      Read the article again, genius. “His” refers to Larry Gameche, whose concern is shared by Rosemary Shahan.

  2. ladyli1 says:

    When you’re shopping for a used car, always make sure that the title does not say “Salvaged”. It means that that car was rescused after it had been damage and put up for resale and most insurance will not cover the cost of getting fixed because it’s already damaged goods. That’s a trick that those car lots use on people that are desparate for a car.

  3. Philip says:

    The site is just a repository of title data from state DMVs. If the flooded car has not been titled as a flood car, then this website will not protect you. Also, the same information that the government is charging $2 for is available free from Carfax. Just go to with the VIN of the car you want to check. Typical that the government subsidizes a bureaucracy with our tax dollars, then charges an additional fee for a service that the private sector is already providing free of charge.

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