The Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of B.C. is warning about an influx of U.S. vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy flooding the Canadian market
An estimated 500,000 vehicles were damaged by salt water, with some exposed to toxins and bacteria in the devastating late-October storm. Thousands of those vehicles have been shipped into Canada and the authority expects some will eventually find their way into B.C.
"Based on previous estimates, there's a one-in-four chance their titles might get washed along the way," said Doug Longhurst, the authority's director of learning and communications. "Ironically, New York state does not have a good history in terms of tagging vehicles that are salvaged and they end up in another state as being clean, and we have no idea how many of those will end up in the wholesale supply chain and end up in Canada."
The good news for buyers who might get stuck with one of those vehicles is they do have some recourse if they buy it from a licenced dealer and are protected if it turns out to be damaged because the dealer would be held liable. But the consumer will be stuck with the vehicle if it is purchased from a curber or unlicenced dealer.
Longhurst says buyers of U.S. vehicles should watch for signs of flood damage, including damp, musty odours, water residue or mud under the hood, dashboards or hard-to-reach corners, discoloured upholstery, new floormats on an older vehicle, carpet that doesn't match the floor area, malfunctioning gauges, lights and other electronic components and rusted brackets under seats or carpets.
Potential buyers can research a vehicle's history with a free online tool at carproof.com or carfax.com. Longhurst said the history of the vehicle won't go away and a title search using the vehicle identification number will reveal those details. He said many dealers provide that information online for customers.
A licensed inspection by an approved mechanic is also recommended. Ask the seller if the car has ever been damaged and get that answer in writing.
Longhurst said he has yet to hear a report of the sale of a Sandy-damaged vehicle in B.C. He said that's more likely to happen in a few months, when vehicles bought in U.S. auctions or shipped from Ontario or Quebec are imported into B.C.
The authority has been involved with the B.C. Better Business Bureau trying to prevent fraudulent vehicles sales. One current scam involves a business interest trying to talk people out of money to sell their vehicle for them, while another is an online offer made by a U.S.-based business selling vehicles that do not exist at low prices.