In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, used car buyers on the Eastern seaboard and beyond need to be double- and triple-check the vehicle histories of cars they may be interested in. As reported by the New York Times, car insurance companies are receiving record numbers of water damage claims. Because salt water is particularly harmful to electrical systems and air bags, many of the insured vehicles will be deemed total losses. The problem is, the cars don’t appear to be damaged. The result? Many nefarious individuals will purchase the vehicles at salvage auctions, and then try to “scrub” the titles and sell them in other states.

According to the Times article, there are more consumer protections available today than, say, following Hurricane Katrina. Insurers are now required to register vehicles deemed total losses with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. There are two primary ways consumers can check to see whether the vehicle they’re considering has been flood-damaged. First, http://www.vehiclehistory.gov provides data from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. Second, Carfax offers a free flood-checking service at http://www.carfax.com/flood.

If you’re in the market for a used car in the next year, it is worth your while to have the vehicle you’re considering checked out by a mechanic. Ask him or her to specifically look for signs of flood damage.