State Seal New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

P.O. Box 160
Trenton, NJ
Media Contact:
Mairin Bellack
Brian Ahrens
(MVC) 609-292-5203
Public Information:
(609) 292-6500
RELEASE: September 23, 2017
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Buyer Beware: Recent Storms Could Swamp New Jersey with Flood-Damaged Vehicles

(TRENTON) – New Jersey was largely spared from the wrath of recent hurricanes; however, residents could still be victimized by unknowingly purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle that was shipped to New Jersey to be sold at a bargain price. 

“Consumers who are thinking about purchasing a used motor vehicle need to be vigilant in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” said Raymond P. Martinez, Chairman and Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).  “Storm damaged vehicles can show up thousands of miles away from their original home and may be offered for sale for years to come.” 
Among the telltale signs that a vehicle may have sustained flood damage are:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer throughout the car;
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch;
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts; and
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

While is not illegal to sell a vehicle with flood damage, sellers are required to ensure that the status of such vehicles is disclosed to potential purchasers. The owner of a vehicle damaged by flood must place the phrase “Flood Vehicle” on the title, assignment of certificate of ownership (title), or manufacturer’s statement of origin if a new vehicle, directly below the word “Status.”

In addition to looking for signs of flood damage, there are many things a customer can do before purchasing a vehicle to avoid trouble farther down the road.  Information about used vehicle values is widely available online, and it is also advisable to have an independent mechanic examine a used vehicle before the purchase is made.  If this is not possible, a customer can personally inspect the vehicle, listening for engine noises, checking underneath the vehicle for signs of fluid leaks, looking for uneven wear on tires and signs of accident damage.  Additionally, customers are advised to obtain a vehicle history report either through the dealer or on their own before making a purchase. 

Chief Administrator Martinez noted that consumers should also check whether a new or used auto dealer in New Jersey is licensed by the MVC, as legally required. 

“With so much riding on your vehicle purchase, we hope that New Jersey residents will take the time to do their homework and investigate the vehicle they are looking to purchase, as well as the seller.  Dealers are required to obtain a license through the MVC, which must be displayed in a prominent location at their place of business,” said Martinez.  “We urge customers to contact the MVC if they are concerned about a particular dealer.”

Customers may reach the MVC’s Business Licensing Services Bureau at (609) 292-6500 extension 5013 with any questions or concerns about a vehicle dealer.