Flood Damaged Cars – don’t buy one

by  |  On September 20th, 2016  |  In Tips & Guides

Flood Damaged Cars

Whenever bad flooding occurs, there is usually a lot of property destroyed and this usually includes motor vehicles. Sometimes a lot of motor vehicles. Ever wonder what happens to all those flood damaged cars? Well, insurance companies typically reimburse the original owners for the damage and then the cars go to auction where used car dealers buy them for resale. As matter of fact, according to the Automotive News, as many as half of all vehicles damaged in floods are resold. The fact that the car was involved in a flood is supposed to be indicated on the title for full transparency.

What water does to automobiles

Len Stoler Hyundai of Ownings Mills, MD, an authorized Hyundai dealer, explains that depending on how deeply the vehicle was submerged, flood damage almost always leaves a car with a lot of unseen problems. Consider that when a car sits in standing water for any period of time, the water gets into every body cavity and crease. If the water is salt water, then you will have a coating of salt on lots interior metal surfaces that you can’t even see.It just sits there and accelerates the rusting process.

Flood Damaged Cars

Image by Pamela Andrade

Flood submersion can also ruin a car’s interior in ways that may not be immediately obvious.Here’s why: many of the adhesives used in automobile construction today are latex-based. That means that things like the door panels, the dash and other interior items will become unglued over time because water has flooded over them.

And, you likely know that today’s cars rely heavily on electronics, and that water and electronics don’t mix very well. Even when the car is eventually dried out, electrical problems will almost certainly show up in the future – problems that are devilishly hard to troubleshoot.

Salvage titles

Flood-damaged vehicles are supposed to be sold with salvage titles. A salvage title means the car has been damaged at some point and the type of damage is supposed to be indicated. Some salvage cars, like those involved in minor accidents, can provide good value, but flood-damaged cars should be avoided. If you’re purchasing a car with a salvage title, just make sure it didn’t get this type of title as a result of flood damage.

Title washing

Not all flood-damaged vehicles bear salvage titles due to an illegal practice known as “title washing.” Title washing occurs when unscrupulous dealers hide things that happened to a car by titling the car in a state that doesn’t require that damage be revealed. For example, some states call for flood damage to be reported only if an insurance company has paid a total-loss flood claim. There are even states in which flood damage isn’t legally required to be disclosed on a vehicle’s title.Title washing is driven by a desire to make money. It allows used car dealers to sell flood-damaged cars at higher prices, and this is why the practice is so common.

Tips for identifying flood-damaged vehicles

If you’re considering a used car for purchase, run its vehicle identification number (VIN) through the database compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NICB’s membership includes more than 1,100 insurance companies, auto auctions, vehicle rental companies, and vehicle finance companies. If a car has ever been declared a total loss from flooding to any of this organization’s member insurance companies, it will be indicated.

Another way to identify a flood-damaged vehicle is to obtain a vehicle history report from Carfax. These reports bear information pooled from police departments, insurance companies, and other sources, and they offer insight into all the damaging events in a car’s past. If you are purchasing your used car from a dealer, you may be able to get the dealership to provide you with a vehicle history report at no cost.

Good luck

Now that you know what to look for and which steps to take, you’ll be able to navigate a path toward a successful used-car purchase that steers clear of vehicles compromised by floods.

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