CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is telling consumers to exercise caution when purchasing used vehicles potentially submerged by last month’s flooding rains.

“With so many vehicles destroyed by this summer’s historic flooding, it’s plausible someone may try to take advantage of the situation,” Morrisey said in a press release. “That’s why potential car buyers must be on guard and watch for deals that seem 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.

Those opting to mitigate their total loss should question any towing company to ensure it is dealt with accordingly. Doing so will provide some certainty that the flood victim’s total loss doesn’t become another’s profit and an eventual buyer’s problem.

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.

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