Avoid buying a hurricane-damaged car

Cars damaged by hurricanes are possibly being sold to car buyers in Pennsylvania. State lemon laws protect consumers from manufacturing defects by requiring manufacturers to buy back cars after a certain number of repairs have been attempted. Consumers should take steps to check for hurricane damage before they purchase a vehicle since lemon law requirements only apply to new vehicles.

A study published by CarFax shows that there are nearly 500,000 vehicles on the roads that have been damaged by hurricanes. The highest number of vehicles with flood damage has been reported in New York. Miami comes in second, and Philadelphia comes in third.

Consumers should inspect odors in a car they are considering purchasing by closing the windows and being wary that cars that smell too nice may have been sprayed with scents to cover a damp or musty odor. Car buyers should also check the air filter, trunk and glove compartment for signs of flood damage. Cloudy headlights are a sign that the car was potentially under water at some point.

Checking the car's history and title for any indication that it is a salvage vehicle is a good idea. Consumers should buy a used car from a reputable dealer in their area and take the car to a mechanic who can check for existing damage before buying it.

An attorney with experience handling consumer protection cases may be able to help car buyers in some cases. If the vehicle was new, state lemon laws may allow the customer to request that the car be bought back if it cannot be repaired. An attorney may be able to help in cases where there was fraud or misrepresentation. For example, if it can be proven that a dealership misled the customer by changing the mileage on the vehicle's odometer, the car buyer may be able to file a claim alleging fraud or misrepresentation.

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