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DMV officials warn of flood damaged cars making way to Wisconsin used car lots


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - Officials in Madison are warning of a possible influx of vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy making their way to the state.

The Department of Trade and Consumer Protection says tens of thousands of cars took water damage as part of the storm, and that could mean big trouble for people looking to buy a used car. Linda Lewis from the Wisconsin DMV says the practice is not a new one. "When we had Hurricane Katrina a few years back, people we buying cars unaware they had flood damage."

Flood damage can make a vehicle’s electrical system malfunction, and short out important systems like your airbags and brakes. There is a national program in place to track cars that have been junked and totalled, but Lewis says those aren't foolproof. "It can take 30 days for a car to enter the system, so it could make it to Wisconsin from the East Coast in that time."

Lewis says there are ways to spot water damage. "Make sure the vehicle doesn't smell musty, they can look for water spotting on under the car mat. There might be dirty tail lights or rust in unexpected places." But a car can be professionally cleaned to remove many of these defects, so be sure to get your car professionally inspected before taking it off the lot.