Nearly a half million cars were destroyed by two of this past season’s biggest hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. Some of these cars may not have received much apparent damage but they were totaled nevertheless because of water, mud, and debris which flooded engine bays and the interior. Damaged cars are supposed to make their way to the junkyard for scrap, unfortunately, some unscrupulous parties are gaining a hold of the vehicle titles and turning around and selling damaged cars to the public. Should you be concerned? Absolutely! Cars soaked by floodwaters from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will soon ѕtаrt арреаrіng in the Midwest used car market, so buyers should beware, according to vehicle experts.
“Even brick-and-mortar legitimate dealers can get burned buying flooded vehicles,” said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a Des Plaines-based nonprofit that fights insurance fraud and crime. “If a professional can get burned, you can too.”
Scafidi expects the number of flood-damaged cars to be greater for Harvey than it was for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, both because of Harvey’s bigger footprint and because in the last 12 years more vehicles rely on computer technology and electronics.
Let’s get something clear, it is not illegal for weekend mechanics to buy a salvaged vehicle, repair it, and sell it to you. What they must disclose to you is that you are buying a salvaged vehicle. This is where most of the problems begin: the dishonest sellers that are not sharing this information.
Flood dаmаgе іѕ еаѕіеr tо соnсеаl frоm аn untrаіnеd eye than damage from a wreck, but it can be more devastating to the engine and other key components, said Christopher Basso, spokesman for the used car research firm Carfax. Flooding can destroy a car’s electronic system, affecting safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes, while rust can rot the vehicle from the inside, Basso said.
Only 22 states require that the titles of flood-damaged vehicles [which were totaled by insurers] be stamped with that information. So, if you live in any one of the 28 other states, be extremely cautious about buying any used car [check your local laws to see which group you belong to].
Car shoppers should always invest in obtaining a car history report from an independent company, such as CarFax, as a backup source to verify information about a vehicle. Although the information supplied by these types of companies isn’t always 100% accurate, it can usually reveal whether a car has been salvaged, rebuilt, is a lemon, or has been flooding damaged. Some guarantee their information so check the individual contract/agreement before you use their services to see what recourse you would have in the event a lemon sneaks by them and you purchase one.
So, how can we know for sure that there will be problems? Well, if Hurricane Floyd is a measuring stick then the potential for fraud is huge. In 1999, nearly 80,000 cars were damaged by Floyd and taken off of the roads due to storm damage. About half of that number were repaired and resold, many to unsuspecting consumers.
You don’t have to be a victim, so get informed. If a car is priced well below book value that can be a big clue that a problem exists, however, don’t rely on price, instead do some research first before buying your next used car.