Hurricane Ida cut a destructive path through more than a dozen states with high winds, torrential rain and flooding causing potentially more than $95 billion in damage.
Forecasts by Accuweather and others predict the storm will be the seventh most costly since the turn of the century two decades ago. Flooding is a major component of the storm and its aftermath because it impacts everything, including commercial offices, homes and vehicles.
Based on its data, CarFax believes as many as 212,000 vehicles sustained significant flood damage due to the storm. Many of those vehicles, the website warns, will be sold without any indication to the buyer it’s been damaged in a flood.
“Our data suggests that unsuspecting buyers everywhere are at risk of winding up with a previously flooded car,” said Chris Basso, CarFax spokesperson. “The real danger is that these cars may look fine and run well for a while, but sooner rather than later major problems are likely to occur.
“Flooded cars literally rot from the inside out and the damage is often difficult for untrained eyes to detect. Together with our dealers, CarFax is making the necessary resources available to help ensure consumers avoid unknowingly buying one of these waterlogged wrecks.”
Not a short-term problem
Flood-damaged vehicles can present buyers with a slew of problems, but more importantly, they’re an ongoing issue, according to the website, which claims there are more than 378,000 flood-damaged vehicles on U.S roads right now.
It’s not illegal to sell a flood-damaged vehicle. You can find auctions that specialize in them with a quick online search. But while those vehicles are supposed to be clearly identified, that’s not always the case with less scrupulous resellers. And if you’re not careful, you could wind up finding yourself underwater considering the costly repairs such vehicles may need.
While flood-damaged vehicles can undergo cosmetic repairs, that is more likely to mask, rather than resolve, longer-term issues, such as rust, mold and mechanical problems that could plague buyers later on, experts warn.
“A car that’s been in a flood, with the engine emerged for any length of time, will never be the same,” Carl Sullivan, a veteran inspector for California-based AiM, previously told TheDetroitBureau.com.
The issue is particularly bad in Texas, which leads the country in these types of vehicles, due in part to the massive Hurricane Harvey that hit the state in 2017, but it’s not the only state where they show up, many of which suffer no flooding. However, the state is potentially facing another round of flood-damaged vehicles at Tropical Storm Nicolas batters it and Louisiana.
How to avoid the problem
There are things anyone suspects a vehicle they’re considering has been in a flood. The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends going the extra mile when looking into a potentially flood-damaged vehicle.
Some steps to follow are:
- Buy from a reputable car dealer.
- Check the car thoroughly looking for water stains, mildew, sand and silt under the carpets, headliner and behind the dashboard.
- Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back the rubber “boots” around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators. Ferrous (containing iron) materials will show signs of rust; copper will show a green patina; aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
The organization also offers an online search tool it calls VINCheck that permits users to run a check on a vehicle for potential issues, such as theft, accident damages or insurance company writeoffs for a total loss. It also recommends buying from a dealer you trust or at the very least has a strong reputation for honesty and great customer service.