If ever there was a buyer beware situation for those searching for a vehicle, it's now. After a major storm like Hurricane Ian, vehicles that were flooded will be showing up for sale on car lots everywhere.

"Shame on those dealers! We'd never buy a car that's been in a flood in the first place. That's why it's key to find an established, reputable dealer," warned Ray Dellecese, who along with his wife Sue has owned and operated Cottage Street Motors in New Bedford for the past 25 years.

Before Ian, Carfax said there are over 400,000 cars on the road that have some flood damage. Dellecese explained how they remain on the road.

"The insurance companies take all the flooded cars, put them in a pool, and condemn them with a salvage title. Then the vehicles could be sold at an auction for a good price," he said. "That's why the most important thing you can do is take the car to a trusted mechanic to inspect. Yes, this might cost a few bucks, but it will save you thousands of dollars in the long run if the car was damaged by a flood."

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"If there's water damage, that information is supposed to be noted, but unfortunately, that's not always the case," Dellecese said.

What are some telltale signs the car was in a flood?

"One of the easiest ways is to use your nose, but first, close all the doors, roll up the windows and wait a few minutes. Then if you smell a musty, moldy odor, that's a red flag," Dellecese said. "Look for moisture in the lights and instrument panel. Pull the seat belt all the way out and look for any sand. The same for the glove compartment and look for signs of mud. Look around the doors for rust."

According to CarFax, there was exasperation over the number of flood-damaged cars that flooded used car lots, especially following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Vehicles water-damaged by Hurricane Ian will soon be sold to consumers who have no idea they're buying damaged goods. Buyer, be aware.

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