Danville, VA - Some are rushing out to dealerships to get a new ride for the new year, but buyer beware -- car dealers are seeing vehicles with flood damage from Hurricane Sandy showing up at auctions.
Experts say there are usually tell-tale signs of flood damage in cars, but scammers are finding new ways to hide that damage.
Dealers say it's hard to tell.
If the vehicle has been thoroughly cleaned and the title information has not been updated, these cars may slip through the cracks, but experts say there are ways to protect yourself and your money.
The aftermath of hurricane Sandy is hitting close to home for car buyers hundreds of miles away from the storm's path.
"We aren't buying any, but there's a certain amount of those cars that are going to get into the system. No question about it, " said dealership owner Robert Woodall.
Woodall says the cars show up at auctions and dealers may buy them and sell them to others, not knowing the car's full history.
"The title is supposed to be flagged as 'flood', but it won't show flood on the title right away because the computers just can't keep up. Especially when you've got probably hundreds of thousands of cars, " Woodall said.
When you unknowingly purchase a water damaged car, auto repair experts say the extent of the damage may take a while to surface.
"It does a lot of damage to break lines, fuel lines....it rusts the body. Cars nowadays have much electronics, and water and electronics do not mix, " said Tim Barber, owner of Barber Automotive.
To protect yourself from buying a flood damaged car, look for tell-tale signs of water damage such as mold under the carpets or waterlines under the hood.
Get a Carfax vehicle history report and be especially cautious when purchasing cars coming from the Northeast.
Robert Woodall also suggests you think twice about buying cars online through private sale.
"Buy a car from a reputable dealer because if you can't find the person you bought it from after you buy it, then you're chasing a ghost, " said Woodall.
Other signs to look for when buying a used car is an older vehicle with brand new carpets and fogging inside the headlights.
Also, have a pre-purchase vehicle inspection completed by a trusted auto repair shop before you buy.