What Consumers Should Know to Avoid Buying a Vehicle with Flood Damage

car_repairFollowing Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, a few people noticed pictures in newspapers of vehicles that were being stored on the runway at a New York airport. The areas where planes normally landed held about 18,000 vehicles. This number constitutes slightly more than five percent of the estimated 250,000 vehicles that went through the claims process for various storm-related damages. A large portion of those vehicles were taken off the market after going through the claims process. When vehicles sustain a great amount of damage from a catastrophic storm, they are often declared to be flood damaged or salvaged. Honest sellers will list their vehicles as such. However, some vehicles may be cosmetically altered and re-marketed at higher prices as ordinary used vehicles.

When an individual seller or dishonest dealer wants to sell a vehicle that has been damaged by flood waters, the title of the automobile is usually scrubbed or re-registered in another state. Unwary buyers may think these vehicles are just used and may never know the full details of their history until it is too late. In some cases, these vehicles may be offered only over the Internet for attractive prices. Such transactions leave very little safety for buyers, and salvaged vehicles have been appearing in several different parts of the country. It is important for buyers everywhere to beware of cars that might have flood damage. In addition to being a costly financial mistake for consumers, cars with existing flood damage can hinder insurability. There are several steps buyers can take to protect themselves. These include the following:

– Verify a vehicle history report from the dealer or individual.
– Check the title history to see if the vehicle has been re-titled several times in a short amount of time. If an insurance company’s name is on the title, contact the company.
– Check the vehicle for moldy or musty smells. If it has a very strong deodorizer, keep in mind that there could be a negative reason for that.
– Look at the electrical wires in the engine to ensure they are pliable.
– Lift up the floor mats to look for signs of water or rust. Check the spare tire’s wheel well for the same issues.
– Look for a water line along the carpet in the vehicle.
– Reach under the seats to see if there is mud, sticks or other residue from a flood.
– Look carefully for rust in areas that would not normally be rusty.
– If the oil or transmission fluid is very light in color, this may indicate it was mixed with water during a flood.
– Check the air filter to see if there are signs of water damage.
– Use VINCheck or the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s databases to search a VIN for information about flood damage.

Since floods can happen throughout the country even aside from widespread disasters, it is important for all American auto shoppers to remain vigilant. Knowing how the market works for these vehicles can save headaches and hassles. This is especially an important consideration for consumers buying vehicles online. To learn more about this issue, discuss concerns with an agent.

About Brian Hendricks

Brian Hendricks is the President of Fidelity Insurance Group. Brian started Fidelity in 2003 with 0 clients. Today Fidelity Insurance Group is a Premier Independent Insurance Agency in Florida with over 3,000 families and businesses insured. Brian currently serves on advisory boards for 2 of the largest property insurance companies in Florida. Knowlege, Integrity, and Committment are his and his agency's guiding principles.
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