‘Rotting Inside’ – How to Avoid Buying a Car Flooded by Hurricane Ian [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

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 Emile Vossspokesperson for vehicle history provider Carfax.

Before Hurricane Ian, Florida had more flood-damaged cars on its roads – 33,500 – than any other state except Texas, according to Carfax. And nearly half of those damaged by the floods Florida cars were in South Florida metropolitan area, Voss said.

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 October 19 speak Florida Bureau of Insurance Regulations123,299 were for damage to passenger cars, according to a spokeswoman for the office.

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.

Kelly’s Blue Book says, “Water can destroy electrical and mechanical systems, lubricants, and cause mold, rust, and corrosion over time.”

David Dos SantosOwner of Japanese car care specialists in margatesaid the problems caused by the flooding might not be apparent immediately after the waters recede and the car dries up.

“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, Kelly’s Blue Book says, “due to the corrosive effect it can have on rubber hoses and wiring.” Cars that sit in salt water for any length of time “can develop serious problems with electrical systems and brakes,” he says.

Research firm Cox Automotive estimates that around 50,000 vehicles were severely damaged by Ian – a large number, but only a fraction of the 300,000 vehicles severely damaged when Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area over 48 hours in 2017.

When a vehicle in Florida is flooded and reported to the homeowner’s insurance company, the insurance company is required to mark the title as “rescue flood”. Trademark information must be uploaded to Florida’s Motor Vehicle Information Verification Database and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System so that potential buyers can enter an information number on the vehicle (VIN) and see the brand.

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, a vehicle damage research website, indicates nearly Florida which are easy to “wash off” titles include Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.

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 Kelly’s Blue Book said the spokesperson.

“Like most fraud, it’s a game of cat and mouse,” says Marc Schirmerspokesperson for Kelly’s Blue Book head quarter Cox Automotive Inc. “Credential verification services are excellent. They prevent certain frauds. But scammers are always looking for ways to trick credential verification services. No one knows how often they succeed.

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 Marc Canon said by email. “Any vehicle we take in goes through a thermal process to make sure it hasn’t been flooded.”

Meanwhile, consumers can take steps to reduce the risk of unknowingly buying a flood-damaged car:

Ron Hurtibise covers trade and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at [email protected].

©2022 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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