FLOOD-DAMAGED CARS SHOWING UP IN CALIFORNIA LOTS
By Brent Begin, Bay City News
January 27, 2006, 12:26 a.m.
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - California Insurance Commissioner
John Garamendi visited the AAA of Northern California auto salvage
garage in San Francisco today to warn used-car buyers of a disturbing
Garamendi said Gulf Coast vehicles damaged by hurricanes Katrina,
Rita and Wilma are being cleaned up, shipped out and sold in dealerships
across the country.
Unsalvageable vehicles have shown up in Arizona, Florida, New
York, Oklahoma and now in the Bay Area. Gar Tomkins, a Brentwood
automotive recycler, bought a 5-year-old Honda S2000 sports car
from Copart Inc., a Fairfield-based Internet auction site.
He thought he was getting a good deal at $7,000.
The Honda appeared to be in cherry condition, but when he checked
out the car's history, he discovered it originated in Mississippi
despite the Gilroy auto dealership license plate placard.
"This was a deliberate attempt to camouflage this Hurricane
Katrina-damaged car that should have been crushed before it was
allowed to leave the Gulf Coast," Tomkins said.
The vehicles are posing problems because, while they may look
fine, salt-water damage to electrical systems could leave a car's
airbag sensors, fuel systems and safety mechanisms permanently
Garamendi suggested that car buyers take the time to inspect
used vehicles. He urged buyers specifically to look for a high
water mark on the radiator, check for rust and corrosion on wires,
beware the smell of mildew or overwhelming scent of an air-freshener
cover-up, and be sure to have a mechanic take a look at the vehicle.
Besides common-sense measures, other resources are available.
By entering the vehicle identification number on the National
Insurance Crime Bureau's Web site at http://www.nicb.org,
buyers can view a detailed transfer history of a potential lemon.
"Don't get wiped out by a washed-up car," Garamendi
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