Flood waters engulf vehicles after heavy rains on a freeway in Brooklyn, New York.
Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images
Anyone planning to buy a used car in the coming months may want to be extra careful.
As hurricane-ravaged areas take stock of the destruction left by Hurricane Ida, thousands of flooded cars are expected to join crumbling private property. While flood damaged cars may have titles that indicate this, the system is not foolproof, which means some of these cars are susceptible to being bought by unintentional buyers.
“Unfortunately, after major storms or floods, we see fraudsters trying to deceive consumers by selling flood damaged cars,” said Tully Lehmann, public affairs manager for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
This time around, there is a high demand for used cars given the potential for fraud as a global shortage of microchips is slowing the production of new vehicles. Experts said the demand could create an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of buyers’ eagerness to strike a deal.
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Ida crashed into Louisiana on August 29, then moved inland, eventually crossing the mid-Atlantic and northeast. The storm left a trail of destruction with deadly flooding, high winds, storm surges and tornadoes. This followed two other large storms that brought torrential rains to the southeast and northeast.
A teenager cleans water from a car in a Queens neighborhood that experiences heavy flooding and several deaths after a night of high winds and rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 3, 2021 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
According to Carfax spokesman Chris Basso, around 378,000 flood damaged cars were already on the roads before Ida struck.
“If the story is true, we are considering several thousand more [flooded] vehicles, and a good percentage of them will be back on the market, ”Basso said.
Flood waters can destroy electronic components, lubricants and mechanical systems in vehicles, sometimes slowly. Rust could eventually find its way to critical electronic components in the car, including the airbag controller, according to Consumer Reports.
Buyers should always check a used car’s “vehicle history report” to make sure they know what they are buying, no matter when and where they are making the purchase. Flooded cars often end up being sold where they were initially damaged.
Through services like Carfax or the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck, you can enter a car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, to see if there is anything in its history that is a flag. Red. However, you may not be able to find out everything.
Basically, when an insurance company receives a claim for a flooded car and the vehicle sums up, meaning the cost of repairs will exceed the value of the car, the title of the car is usually used to reflect its condition. is changed to.
Cars drive off the flooded Major Deegan Freeway after a night of extremely heavy rain caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in New York’s Bronx neighborhood on September 2, 2021.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
According to Consumer Reports, these wrecked cars are typically sold at salvage auctions to landfills and vehicle rebuilders. If the title reveals flood damage, it may be legal to resell it to consumers.
However, not all car owners file an insurance claim. If they don’t have full coverage – the part of auto insurance that will cover flooding – they’re usually out of luck. This means that without the intervention of the insurance company, flood damage may not be officially recorded anywhere.
“Unfortunately, there will be people who, without insurance coverage for flood damage, will attempt to clean their car and sell it to unsuspecting buyers at some point,” Lehmann said. I’ll try. “
And, there are dealers who will clean up flooded cars and sell them, whether locally or in another state where the titling rules are less strict.
“It’s important to take a close look at the cars, even a lot of them,” said Lehmann.
According to Carfax, there are things you might look for in a used vehicle that could suggest flood damage:
- a musty smell inside, which sellers sometimes try to mask with a strong air freshener;
- Upholstery or rugs which may be loose, new or stained or not match the rest of the interior;
- wet carpet;
- Rust around the doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hoods and trunk latches;
- mud or mud in the glove box or under the seats;
- brittle wire under the dashboard;
- Fog or moisture beads in interior lighting, exterior lighting or dashboards.
You should also test drive the car and have it checked out by a trusted mechanic.
“And remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Lehmann said. “Trust your instincts and if you feel bad, go elsewhere. “