Superstorm Sandy damaged cars get a coating of snow from...

Superstorm Sandy damaged cars get a coating of snow from yet another major storm as they sit on the runway at the old Grumman facility in Calverton. (Feb. 10, 2013) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Superstorm Sandy damaged 20,000 more cars and trucks in New York State than originally thought, an insurance industry group is reporting Thursday.

New York motorists have so far reported an estimated 150,000 vehicles damaged by floodwaters, falling trees and other storm effects, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau of Des Plaines, Ill. The previous estimate was 130,000, and the group says the total could go even higher.

In all 15 states and the District of Columbia affected by the Oct. 29 storm, the group now estimates a total of 250,500 vehicles were damaged.

New York's figure was the highest, followed by New Jersey's estimated 60,000 vehicles.

No breakdown was available by county, nor did the bureau distinguish between vehicles declared total losses and those damaged but reparable. "They could have sustained minor paint scratches from flying debris or have been under water for days and rendered total losses," the group says.

The insurance crime bureau says the new figures suggest consumers should be even more vigilant about inadvertently purchasing a vehicle with non-apparent storm damage that could lead to costly repair bills.

Cars declared total losses by insurers are reported as such to state motor vehicle departments and usually are sold to dismantlers to be stripped for usable parts. But some are salvaged for resale. As a warning to prospective buyers, their titles are supposed to be stamped as "salvage" or in certain states including New York, "flood."

The National Automobile Dealers Association has warned that some of those cars find their way onto the used-car market with clean -- though illegal -- titles, showing no evidence of flood damage.

Experts say saltwater can play havoc with computer-controlled fuel and braking systems, electric power steering, power door locks, window regulators and heating and air-conditioning components, among others.

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