There are estimates that as many as half a million cars were damaged from the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma along the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida. Many people are now wondering what happens to those cars.
Flood-damaged cars are about to flood the used-vehicle market following Hurricane Harvey, and now Hurricane Irma is threatening to place even more consumers at risk of unknowingly buying a wrecked ride.
CarFax estimates that there could be over 500,000 flood-damaged cars from recent storms. This is in addition to the estimated 350,000 flood damaged vehicles all ready on the road today spread all across the United States.
How Flood Damaged Vehicles Hit The Market
•Auctions. After an insurance company slaps a flood or salvage title on a vehicle, it gets auctioned legally as a salvaged vehicle for parts, but then is cleaned by the buyer who puts it up for sale.
•Owner simply sells the car. Owners with little or no insurance coverage clean the vehicle themselves, maybe replacing some upholstery and then sell it to an unsuspecting buyer.
•Forged titles and documentation. Sellers can alter title records or other documentation to trick buyers into thinking the cars do not have any damage.
Cars that have comprehensive insurance coverage are most likely to be scrapped. Once owners report that their cars have been flood damaged, the insurance companies will send adjusters out to inspect the cars. Most are settled that day, a tow truck picks up the damaged vehicle and tows it away to be salvaged.
Cars without full coverage insurance are the ones to look out for. People who owned these vehicles will recieve nothing from their insurance companies and may want to sell you the car without telling you it was flooded.
These are usually going to be older, paid-off cars since most banks require a comprehensive policy when writing a loan
How to Spot a Flood Damaged Car
Your best advice is the Vehicle History Report. However, you can spot a flood car by inspecting a vehicle before you buy it. There are always signs that a car has been damaged even if it has been carefully cleaned.
The smell. Musty or maybe smells like detergent. The car is going to have a smell to it.
Use your senses to look for problems. If you detect heavy detergents or cleaning agents inside the car, under the hood or in the trunk, the aroma could mask an odor or mold problem.
Lift the carpet to look for signs of moisture or mold. Look for new flooring on an older car. It may have replaced what was damaged. Open the trunk and look under the seats for mud or dirt.
Rust may also form on metal surfaces, including the brake and gas pedals, inside the door frames or underneath the hood. Brittle wires, moisture in the head lights and a rough running engine other signs of trouble.
The cars that get repaired and are running are the ones to watch out for. The first thing a seller is going to do is make sure the car can be started and driven. They may tell you it just needs a tune-up. Inspect used cars closely because there will be no record that they were flooded since the insurance companies likely did not see them.
Check the vehicle history report. After insurers cover flood damage on a vehicle, the vehicle history report will notate its status as a salvaged car.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could damage up to 500,000 vehicles
If that’s the case, it would mean more flooded and damaged vehicles than Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which destroyed between 200,000 and 250,000 each.
Your best advice is a car history report. All insurance claims and repairs from authorized service centers are required to fill out an incident report.
Don’t forget about an emergency weather radio.
Carfax has opened up its site which has information from more than 100,000 sources, including insurers and mechanics, for free flood-history checks at Carfax.com/flood.