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Sen. Chuck Schumer warns of ‘hurricane cars’ in used market

Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the FTC to strengthen regulations that make sure that consumers are aware if a used car had flood damage. / Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the FTC to strengthen regulations that make sure that consumers are aware if a used car had flood damage.

Hundreds of thousands of faulty, flood-damaged vehicles could be resold to unsuspecting drivers in the used car market, Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Sunday.

After a devastating 2017 hurricane season where Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria tore through the country, more than 600,000 cars were damaged by floodwaters — with many of those vehicles potentially finding their ways to used car lots around the nation, according to Schumer, the National Insurance Crime Bureau nonprofit and the Federal Trade Commission.

Schumer is calling on the FTC to improve regulations to ensure that consumers are aware of flood damage to prevent the practice of “cleaning up” such vehicles for resale, only for them to break down shortly after the purchase. Earlier this year, the FTC published tips to help consumers sniff out the scam.

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“While the FTC has been sounding the alarm on ‘hurricane cars,’ consumers are still at risk of being duped and burdened by a financial road of ruin if they unknowingly buy one,” said Schumer in a statement. “That’s why the FTC needs to drive forward with more than a consumer warning and hit the gas on a plan that uses the ‘Used Car Rule’ already on the books to ensure that the sticker slapped on every used car in a lot details a robust ‘flood check.’ ”

Schumer has written to FTC Commissioner Joseph Simmons urging him to revise the Used Car Rule to include flood damage information, arguing that it’s become more pressing as used car sales have continued to increase after an especially bad hurricane season. The rule has been in effect since 1985, requiring car dealers to put together a buyers’ guide on used cars that details whether a dealer offers a warranty and its terms and conditions. Schumer wants to make flood checks a required disclosure in the guide.

The FTC did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday. For drivers shopping around for used cars, the commission advises checking for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats and dashboard in vehicles — potential signs that a car has been damaged in flooding. Drivers should also keep an eye out for fogging in headlights and taillights and be suspect of new upholstery in older vehicles, according to the commission.

Schumer warned that flood-related mechanical and electrical failures in a vehicle presents not just a hit to the wallet for the buyer, but a serious safety risk on the road, too.

“Whether you’re a New Yorker looking to buy in New York, or a New Yorker looking on the internet for a car parked in another state, the risk of winding up in the driver’s seat of a ‘hurricane car’ is a headache at the least, but a real danger, too,” Schumer continued.