Beware of flood damaged vehicles in the months ahead
In the weeks and months ahead, you’re sure to see local and national efforts to help those in North and South Carolina who have been impacted by the catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. While such efforts are always inspiring, there is a dark side to what happens in the wake of a large storm like Hurricane Florence.
Once a post-flood clean-up and rebuilding begins, flood-damaged vehicles most often are sold for scrap or recycling. Occasionally, however, they find their way into the marketplace for sale to unsuspecting buyers.
"While our hearts go out to the victims of the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence, there are bound to be flood damaged vehicles that enter our market here in Northeast Ohio through unscrupulous business people and private citizens who are able to wash titles and otherwise circumvent the titling process,” says Louis A. Vitantonio, president of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association (GCADA). “They do this despite recent changes in titling and the improved availability of vehicle history information, which have made it much more difficult to bring storm damaged vehicles into our market."
Water, and especially salt or brackish water from storm surge, can have a devastating impact on a vehicle’s electrical systems, including its airbag sensors. It can also cause many other driver’s safety features prone to failure, causing the vehicle to become unsafe or even roadworthy. In addition, structural components could be prone to corrosion. Organizations such as Carfax and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System offer some protection for prospective buyers from concealed vehicle histories on used cars and trucks.
If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, buying a certified used vehicle through a franchised new vehicle dealer in the months ahead is a good bet. If you’re buying a used vehicle from a private seller in the months ahead, make sure it’s someone you know and trust.
If you’re still willing to risk purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller that you don’t know, the National Automobile Dealers Association does offer some very good tips for spotting potential flood damage in a used vehicle:
- Check a vehicle's title history using the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VinCheck or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System or a commercially available vehicle history report service, such as Experian or Carfax, etc. Reports may state whether a vehicle has been flood damaged.
- Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.
- Check for recently shampooed carpeting.
- Look under the carpeting for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.
- Inspect for interior rust and under the carpeting, and inspect upholstery and door panels for evidence of fading.
- Check under the dash for dried mud and residue, and note any mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.
- Check for rust on screws in the console and in other areas water would normally not reach unless the vehicle was submerged.
- Look for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
- Inspect electrical wiring for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.
- Inspect other components for rust or flaking metal not normally found in late model vehicles.
These suggestions will not detect flood damage in every case, but they do offer consumers some protection against buying a vehicle that has been damaged in a flood.
EDITORS: If you would like to know more about flood damaged vehicles, or would like to set up a dealer interview, please contact Terry Troy at 440-521-2900 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sara Panza at the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association at 440-746-1500 (email@example.com). We would be more than willing to help set up interviews, as well as supply our media partners with appropriate questions and information to create pieces that are both entertaining and informative for your audiences.