MPI warns consumers to beware of used vehicles from U.S.

Flood-damaged, newer-model automobiles may be on the market following hurricanes that struck southeast coastlines of the United States last month.

Vehicle consumers seeking a deal for a used car in the United States may be in for a surprise when they reach the international border.

Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) is warning residents of the province that an influx of vehicles on the American market may have been involved in flooding after hurricanes struck the southeast U.S. coastline last month. MPI suggests anyone considering the purchase of an American vehicle be vigilant in checking its status before buying it.

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Should the automobile show any signs of flood damage, it will not be allowed into Canada. Consumers can see the history of their prospective American purchase at flood.carfax.com.

“We know with the hurricanes that hit Florida and the Carolinas in particular there are tens of thousands of vehicles that have suffered flood damage,” said MPI spokesperson, Brian Smiley. “Some of these vehicles may have been salvaged, cleaned up and put up for sale. We want to let people know that even though it may look mint and operable, if you go down and pick one up and it shows any signs that it has been flooded, you might not be allowed to get it across the border.”

Smiley noted that similar warnings have been issued to Manitobans in the past.

Automobiles damaged by water immersion can leave them in potentially dangerous condition. Besides the development of mold and the presence of toxins in the vehicles, electronic components can corrode and malfunction, causing safety features like airbags to fail.

A car, truck, SUV or other type of automobile not branded “flooded” does not mean it is not damaged. Some vehicles may not have been ran through as an insurance claim, but have been cleaned and repaired by owners in an effort to sell it to recoup any losses.

Should this be the case, there are ways to check for damage related to flooding besides conducting a vehicle identification number (VIN) search. MPI suggests having the automobile inspected by a certified technician alongside checking for damp or musty odors; any signs of rust or mud in the trunk, glove box and beneath the seats; and under the hood for water lines marked by mud or silt.

“(Based on) vehicle branding rules in the U.S. and inspections conducted by the Registrar of Imported Vehicles upon entry to Canada, flood-damaged vehicles may not be allowed to be registered in Manitoba,” MPI’s vice-president Satvir Jatana said in a company statement about the issue.

“To avoid financial loss, consumers should do their homework prior to making a used vehicle purchase. Due to severe weather fronts, tens of thousands of newer model vehicles were likely flooded or heavily damaged due to hurricanes and flooding. Many of these vehicles will be resold to unsuspecting consumers.”

MPI currently has no knowledge of flood-damaged automobiles being recently purchased by Manitobans, but is warning citizens that such vehicles may already be on the market, said Smiley.

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