Dangerous, rusted out cars from Hurricane Sandy have started to arrive in our state. I got an exclusive look at the first car in Washington that can truly be identified as a remnant of the disaster and can tell you how to avoid buying one as your next purchase.
Marc and Marilyn Esterly of Mukilteo spent close to $14,000 for a Honda CRV that they'll never be able to drive again.
"I wake up thinking of what could have been," said Marilyn.
The Esterlys bought the car in King County just three weeks after Sandy hit New York last fall. They had no idea the SUV was unsafe and full of rust caused by an East Coast salt water bath. The true colors of the car were revealed only after Marilyn had an accident.
"It's just, the struts and things on all four tires were rusted. Several of them were rusted and disconnected and as the pictures have shown there were nuts and bolts that together you couldn't take them apart. So given all that, they just said we cannot fix this to go back on the highway," explained the Esterleys.
Scott Wagner with the National Insurance Crime Bureau was brought in to check out the vehicle. He contacted the previous owner, who admitted it was flooded in the storm. During an inspection of the car's rusted axle, Wagner said it was the worst damage he's ever seen from a hurricane.
"These are major components of the vehicle that are completely rusted. You can tap on those a bit and they would fall apart," said Wagner.
Wagner offered a short check list to help protect other car buyers from the same salty fate.
"Turn the car on and look at all of the warning lights that come on and see if anything stays on because usually there's going to be a wiring issue," explained Wagner.
He also suggested buyers:
- Look under the hood for rusty parts or new paint on the engine.
- Check the seat belts and under the carpet for signs of salt water or mold.
- Hire a mechanic to inspect the vehicle before making the purchase.
The Esterleys are out the cost of the vehicle because their insurance does not cover hurricane damage. They are considering legal action against the people who sold them the car.