Beware buying a used car that's been flooded

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged consumers to exercise caution when purchasing used vehicles potentially submerged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma’s flooding rains.

“The tremendous amount of water dumped by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma flooded numerous cars,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Anyone thinking of buying a car should make sure their good deal isn’t too good to be true.”

State law prohibits the reselling of a submerged vehicle without a salvaged title. This requires anyone repairing a total loss to do so with a specially licensed salvage mechanic and document its redeemed status with a salvage title thereafter.

Otherwise, there are several things consumers can do to ensure they make a good purchase. Tips include researching the automobile’s history with its vehicle identification number (VIN) via CARFAX and evaluating the dealership through Better Business Bureau.

Those buying from a private owner should have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle for any issue.

Consumers should pay particular concern to any vehicle with multiple owners in multiple states over a short period of time. That protects the consumer from anyone who would repair a submerged vehicle in a state with less stringent laws and then resell it in West Virginia.

Simply put, consumers should question the absence of a salvage title whenever their inspection report or research indicates their potential purchase was submerged or originated from an area that experienced hurricanes and flooding.

If you have a question regarding a potential purchase or believe you have a complaint, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or file a report online at

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