It is estimated that 500,000 insurance claims on damaged automobiles will be filed as a result of Hurricane Harvey alone. Given that Hurricane Irma engulfed the entire state of Florida, the number of hurricane damaged vehicles there can be expected to be immense as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, about half of flood damaged automobiles are resold and while it’s not illegal to buy and sell if all parties have knowledge of the true condition of the car, oftentimes such damage is never revealed. So if you are planning the purchase of a used automobile in the near future, it will pay to follow the old adage “if it appears to be too good to be true, it usually is.” Be careful of “terrifically priced” used cars on the market as this is one of the bellweathers for a flood damaged automobile. Flood damage may not be visible but just as destructive to the computer systems of a car. Remember these vehicle computers now control things like the gas petal or steering wheel.
Identifying a Car with Flood Damage
Thankfully, since Hurricane Katrina there are multiple sources that can be searched to determine if a used car you are considering purchasing has been damaged in a flood. First the National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a VIN check to determine if a vehicle has been damaged in a flood. The website is www.nicb.org/vincheck. Second, a VIN number can also be checked through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website, www.vehiclehistory.gov. And finally from the folks at CarFax, our cute little Car Fox is offering free database checks for flooded vehicles at carfax.com/flood.
- Check for recently shampooed carpeting
- Look underneath the carpeting for signs of water stain marks or rust
- Check under the dash for dried mud and residue and perform the “sniff test” to detect any mold or musty odors in the car.
- Check for rust on screws in areas of the car that would not normally be exposed to water.
- Look for mud or grit in small recesses of the engine compartment
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