How to avoid unknowingly pouring money into a car flooded by Hurricane Ian

The massive storm surge from Hurricane Ian devastated parts of Florida’s west coast. But residents of South Florida could also be victims of these floods. Karen Hensel explains in Tonight’s 7 Investigations.

Hurricane Ian’s massive storm surge and relentless rain swamped cars in southwest Florida.

Mechanic Ben Levy: “These vehicles are definitely damaged.”

Permanently damaged but not all are permanently off the road.

Emilie Voss, CARFAX: “Just because of the proximity to where Hurricane Ian hit, I have no doubt these vehicles will end up in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. »

Vehicle history company CARFAX estimates that up to 358,000 cars – from Florida to the Carolinas – were damaged by Ian’s flooding.

Emilie Voss: “Now not all of these vehicles will be back on the road, but if history shows us anything, we know that a good part of them will.”

And without knowing it, buying one of these cars could lead to a flood of trouble.

Emilie Voss: “They could work well today, but tomorrow there could be problems because they are literally rotting from the inside.”

Wales Garage owner Ben Levy said there were warning signs that a car had been submerged.

Ben Levy: “If this thing had been in deep salt water, within six months to a year it would be badly rusted.”

Check inside the trunk.

Ben Levy: “What we are looking for is the accumulation of sediment in the spare wheel well. That would be a good sign that the vehicle has been under water.

…and under the hood.

Ben Levy: “We would look at hard components like tops of bolts and unfinished materials for rust. Rust is going to be your big factor. You are going to see surface rust in components that you should never see surface rust on.

Levy says it’s a good idea to have a trusted mechanic look at a used car before you buy it.

Ben Levy: “The flood car is going to show a lot of dirt, a lot of debris. When you drive past the carpet – no one is going to look under it – but you can see it’s clean.

And it’s not just seeing – but a smell that might give you an indication that a car has been flooded. Experts say a musty smell is a telltale sign, but so is an interior that smells too good.

Emilie Voss: “That should also raise a red flag, because what are they trying to cover up?”

CARFAX ranks Florida second in the nation with the most flood-damaged cars on the road, even “before” Hurricane Ian.

Nearly half of them are in South Florida, many of which were purchased at salvage auctions.

Emilie Voss: “What happens, however, is that crooks go to these auctions, they buy these vehicles, they clean them and then they resell them without disclosing them, and that is what is essential here.

They can then end up for sale online, on sites like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace.

Ben Levy: “To do something dishonest, in bad taste, is just infuriating.”

Infuriating – but avoidable.

Any sign that a car is waterlogged – move on.

For more information on flooded cars, click here.

To check for flood damage on a vehicle’s title, visit these links:

Karen Hensel, 7News.

[email protected]

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