With more than nine million vehicles registered in counties affected by Hurricane Sandy, Experian Automotive is warning consumers to be extra vigilant when shopping for a used car.
The firm said while the total number of vehicles damaged by the storm is still unknown, preliminary reports indicate that the number will be fewer than that of past hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Irene.
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Additional research using Experian Automotive’s AutoCheckdatabase revealed that 1.6 million cars and trucks throughout the United States were designated as damaged by accidents or severe weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding, in the first half of 2012, the company said.
Of those, more than 425,000 or nearly 27%, lost their damage designation, or brand, when they were retitled as clean in another state, according to Experian Automotive.
Superstorm Sandy has increased the potential for more title-washed vehicles to find their way into the market, the firm warned.
“In the wake of any natural disaster, consumers need to be acutely aware that there will be damaged vehicles out there that will be cleaned up and sold to unsuspecting buyers,” said Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive.
With such a large number of title-washed vehicles on the road today, Waldron said consumers need to arm themselves with as much information as possible when shopping for a used vehicle.
Experian Automotive said it has launched a free online tool called Storm Scan, which will identify if a vehicle has suffered any major damage events possibly caused from the storm, or whether the vehicle has been titled or registered within the affected area in the past 12 months.