The Dangerous And Common Practice Of Selling Flooded Cars

According to Cox Automotive, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 cars were damaged by Hurricane Florence earlier this month. Dishonest people will try selling these damaged vehicles to unsuspecting people which means it is important to stay vigilant in the weeks and months after big storms like Florence.

IF  floodwater is able to enter the car’s door openings, even if the car is still in working condition.  Corrosion to the electrical system may not show immediately but can cause expensive problems in the future.

Cars that have been damaged in a flood should be issued a salvage title. Not all states have the same standards for salvage titles which leads to what people call “title washing.” In title washing, a seller with a damaged car transfers the car ownership through states that will provide clean titles.

Another common way to end up with a flood-damaged car involved insurance companies. When an owner files a claim with their auto insurance company, the companies pay the car owner, pick up the car and often sell the damaged car at auction. They are bought, restored and later sold to unsuspecting people.

According to the National Crime Bureau, if an unsold car sitting at a dealership or an uninsured car is flooded, that damage will not show up on the title because there is no insurance claim filed.

Triple A says the most common signs of flood damage are:

  • the car has a damp smell.
  • the carpet or upholstery has been cleaned or replaced.
  • dirt or mud is present under the dash, engine compartment and/or inside the trunk.
  • rust or corrosion is found in the body of the car or inside the electrical connectors.

Perspective buys can follow the recommendations to avoid buying a damaged car:

  • bring a mechanic to examine electrical system and look for corrosion, especially if it is being purchased at an auction
  • purchase history reports from companies like CarFax, which shows if a car has been issued a salvage title
  • run the VIN number through the National Insurance Crime Bueau’s VINcheck

Hurricane Florence will not be the first or last time the dangerous trend of selling flooded cars is seen. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August 2017, an estimated 300,000 cars were damaged by the hurricane, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. The vehicles were gathered and transported to assessment lots where they were assessed and either went out for resale or were scrapped.

CarFax estimates that approximately 325,510 flooded cars are still in use today. Flood waters affects a car’s safety and mechanical and electrical capabilities. To avoid becoming a victim of this dishonest practice it is important to buy a reputable seller and use increased caution, especially after major storms.

Buying affordable full coverage auto insurance is the best way to keep a car protected and not continue the trend of selling flood damaged vehicles, even if the car is not in an area prone to floods.