(NEW YORK) -- When superstorm Sandy pummeled the Northeast last October, the damage was widespread. Nearly 300 people lost their lives, and thousands more lost their homes. Then there were the cars. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an estimated 250,000 cars were submerged for days in corrosive saltwater.
These flood-damaged vehicles began to pile up at the Calverton Executive Airpark in Long Island. In the months following Sandy's destruction, these cars began to disappear. Where did these flood cars go?
In a five-month investigation, ABC's The Lookout found these cars turning up on used car lots across the country.
Christopher Basso, public relations manager at CarFax, explains the potential hazards of flood-damaged vehicles, adding that "flood cars literally rot from the inside out."
Because of how easily the damage can be concealed, Basso warns prospective buyers to bring the vehicle to a mechanic for an inspection. "While this car looks great on the outside and to the untrained eye, things are falling apart inside this car. It may not happen immediately, but days, weeks or months down the road, parts that are on this car are going to fail."
CarFax estimates that over 100,000 Sandy-damaged vehicles are now back on the road across the United States.
When ABC's The Lookout team went undercover at used car dealership D&D Auto Sales in Old Bridge, N.J., they discovered a Ford F-350 truck totaled by Hurricane Sandy selling for $19,999. The truck's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and auction records indicated it was damaged by a flood.
A D&D's salesman sold the car to an ABC's The Lookout producer for its asking price and referred to a flood alert on the vehicle history report CarFax as only "a glitch."
But Allan Picker, owner and certified mechanic at All-Time AutoBody in Point Pleasant, N.J., knows the CarFax alert was no glitch. The Lookout team brought the truck to him to examine the dangers a cleaned-up flood vehicle can often conceal. Picker discovered the car had serious damage, including a corroded transmission, as well as potentially hazardous airbags that could randomly deploy while driving.
D&D Auto Sales responded to The Lookout team's findings and stated, "D&D auto sales sincerely regrets the unfortunate misrepresentation of the product by the salesperson. We do not condone such business practices and have terminated the salesman as a result of his independent action. This is in no way reflective of typical business practices at D&D."
To protect yourself, experts encourage drivers to do their homework before spending their money and thoroughly check a car's history, as well as get the car inspected by a certified mechanic.
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