flood-damaged vehicles

Hurricane Ian has insurance crime experts warning car buyers over flood-damaged vehicles

Hurricane Ian came through Florida on September 30th, bringing devastating winds and heavy rain. Some areas of Florida saw over 20 inches of rain within a few hours. The storm caused significant flooding throughout its path.  Even as the storm hit the Carolinas later as a weaker hurricane, it still brought unbelievable amounts of rain, causing flooding throughout both of these states.

The number of cars damaged by the flooding in these three states has yet to be determined, but it is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Areas of Florida that had never flooded before found themselves underwater, and the vehicles parked in their driveways were all affected.

If You Are Looking For a Used Vehicle During the Next Year – Be Careful!

Over the next several months, you can expect that there will be a lot of previously flooded cars entering the used car market. It is essential that you are careful not to purchase one of these vehicles.  For many reasons, buying a flooded car can be a nightmare for the new owner.

What is a Flooded Car

A flooded car is any vehicle immersed in flood waters to the point that it reaches the bottom of the car doors.  Flooding typically does not apply to vehicles driven through high water only those parked when the flooding occurred.

If a driver was insured when the flooding occurred, they can file a car flooded insurance claim. If over 75 percent of the vehicle is damaged, the insurance company will consider the vehicle a loss, take possession of that vehicle, and pay the owner for the loss.

These cars will have a salvage title attached to them and may find their way to the used car markets across the country through auction sales.

A private owner that did not have the right insurance coverage may try to sell the vehicle without disclosing that the vehicle was damaged in a flood. You must look at these vehicles closely for flood damage. Some of the things you may want to check include the following:

  • Mismatched or brand-new carpeting in the vehicle
  • Water in the headlights or tail lights
  • Mildew smell in the interior or the trunk of the vehicle
  • Look at the engine for signs of a water line
  • Look for discoloration or water lines on the door panels in the interior
  • Look for leaks under the vehicle – many seals will dry rot after they have been in a flood causing the vehicle to leak different fluids.

It is always wise to check the vehicle’s title before making a purchase. If it has a salvage title, walk away from the vehicle – you don’t need the headache. If the vehicle was recently changed from a Florida or a North or South Carolina title, you might want to move on. The change could indicate that the vehicle was recently purchased from an auction.

flood-damaged vehicles

Common Problems With Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Flooded cars present many problems for their owners, including:

  • Inability to insure the vehicle due to salvage title or having to buy expensive special insurance to cover the vehicle
  • Seals and hoses suffer from dry rot needing to be replaced
  • Rust problems with the undercarriage
  • Damage to the brakes and metal brake lines
  • Electrical issues with the vehicle
  • Mold and mildew growth inside the vehicle, which can lead to respiratory illnesses
  • Inability to resell vehicle at a later date for more than scrap metal
Regardless If Hurricane Ian Damaged Them, Cars Flooded in Any Storm Are Bad

Purchasing a used vehicle that has not been certified by the dealer can be risky, even if it was not involved in a flood. Used vehicles often have lingering problems from their previous owners, many of which are not disclosed to the new owners.

With so many vehicles damaged by this massive hurricane, it will be crucial to check any vehicle that you purchase used that has not been certified by a dealer. It does not matter where you live in the country. For the next year, as these flooded vehicles make their way through the insurance salvage system, they will become available at auctions across the country.

For those living in the affected states of Florida and North and South Carolina, it will be important to check any vehicle you purchase from an individual to ensure that it was not damaged in the storm.

Check any vehicle you are interested in for signs of water damage. If unsure, take the vehicle for inspection at your preferred mechanic. Damage that may not be visible on the exterior can be seen in the mechanical areas of the vehicle. Check the title of the vehicle and avoid any listed as salvage titles.  A title check is among the best ways to protect yourself from the nightmare of owning a flood damaged vehicle.

When Purchasing A Vehicle

Always remember to run a VINsmart report on any used vehicle before making a purchase.  A VINsmart report runs a complete history on the vehicle including whether it has ever been reported as stolen, involved in a major accident, or listed as a totaled vehicle.

VINsmart reports will also give you a registration history and mileage at registration.  It reports any significant incidents related to the vehicle, such as being involved in a fire or flood.

When you are purchasing a used vehicle, the best way to ensure you make a good purchase is to know the vehicle’s complete history.


To get started with VINsmart, click here.

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