Shoppers Should Avoid Sandy-Damaged Vehicles

Thousands of cars were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Others were simply left unclaimed. Now six months after the storm, the car market is beginning to stabilize.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Atlantic Coast of the U.S. took an economic hit six months ago from Hurricane Sandy. It left behind damaged businesses, homes and hundreds of thousands of waterlogged vehicles.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports that it's still affecting the auto industry.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Much of the physical damage of Sandy has been cleaned up, but if you didn't live in the storm's path, it's hard to contemplate the scope of destruction - especially when it comes to cars.

Alec Gutierrez is an analyst with Kelley Blue Book and he's going to help us do just that.

ALEC GUTIERREZ: I mean you're talking about two to 300,000 vehicles that were destroyed, a minimum of 40 to 50,000 new vehicles that were destroyed. I think it was 20 or 30,000 brand-new Toyotas, 15 or 20,000 brand-new Nissans, at port, completely destroyed.

GLINTON: Gutierrez says even if the cars weren't totaled, a car owner would be lucky if a water-damaged vehicle retains 15 to 20 percent of its value. The storm sent owners to the market looking to replace their new or used cars, which distorted car values for months.

Gutierrez says the industry has absorbed those price fluctuations, but, he says, car owners still need to be on the lookout.

GUTIERREZ: And especially in the Northeast, they want to be cognizant that there likely are a number of vehicles out there that were perhaps impacted or damaged by the floods that were not reported by the owner - whether that's a consumer or a dealer.

GLINTON: Gutierrez says consumers should check for water lines, mildew smells and weird engine lights that are stuck on. And he says, avoid storm-damaged cars at all costs.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Culver City.

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