This happens after every major flood: tens of thousands of cars are inundated by storm surge or rising waters due to heavy rain. Insurers declare them total losses and resell them to salvage companies.
Many end up in scrap yards, where reusable parts are stripped and the remains are ground up.
Others, however, are bought at deep discounts by low-volume flippers who air them out and polish them as best they can before posting them on Craigslist or parking them in a corner with a For Sale sign in the window.
Many sellers won’t tell you the vehicle was flooded and hope you won’t ask. But you should be aware: “These cars literally rot from the inside”, according to
Before Hurricane Ian,
After Ian, those numbers are expected to increase over the next few months, Voss said.
Of the 553,244 Ian-related property damage claims recorded as of
Ian could be responsible for damaging up to 358,000 cars nationwide, Carfax said in a recent press release. Many will join the 400,000 water-damaged vehicles already on the country’s roads.
Carfax is one of several automotive-focused organizations warning consumers to exercise caution when buying a used vehicle in the coming months. You don’t want to have to diagnose and fix water-related issues in the months and years after you buy your car, they say.
“You could bring me a car that was flooded yesterday, and I wouldn’t see any symptoms,” he said. Flood damage, he said, “can be difficult to identify, even if it happened two or three months ago.”
But within six to eight months, flooded cars turn into “nightmares”, he says, as the trapped moisture oxidizes and corrodes the pins, wires and circuit boards that relay driver commands.
Salt water so particularly damaging,
When a vehicle in
Dealerships are required to disclose in writing whether a vehicle has been marked, but fraudulent sellers can rebrand flooded cars in other states with lax disclosure laws, then bring them back to stricter states and offer them for sale. sale as used cars in good condition. This practice is known as “title washing”.
According to VINCheck.info, a vehicle damage research website, indicates nearly
Although the damage histories of cars with washed titles can be discovered by checking Carfax, VINCheck and others, these and other services do not always have complete histories, a
“Like most fraud, it’s a game of cat and mouse,” says
Flood-damaged cars can also enter the market if the owner has the vehicle repaired without filing an insurance claim.
Consumers in such situations are on their own to determine if a car they are considering has ever been flooded.
Even the tried-and-tested precaution of having a car checked by an independent mechanic before buying it might not cause water damage to electronics if the car appears to be working properly, dos Santos said. Moisture hidden in electronic components is unlikely to be detected in such cases, he said.
Major dealerships like AutoNation have sophisticated testing procedures to ensure they are not selling flood-damaged cars.
“We have strict procedures in place to ensure that we do not have any flooded vehicles,” AutoNation spokesperson
Meanwhile, consumers can take steps to reduce the risk of unknowingly buying a flood-damaged car:
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