What to do if your car is flooded? Can you drive it? What kind of damage?
Flood-damaged cars are something that most of us don’t think about. But with the increasingly fierce storms like Hurricane Ida, this is something to think about. Pictured here are flooded cars stranded on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, New York.
Every time a hurricane or flood impacts an area of the country, automobiles are damaged. Sadly many are not destroyed by insurance companies. These vehicles are not safe! Many sat in fields and are filled with ecoli and mold from the sewage and water. What is unreal is how many different ways this affects us all.
What can you do if you were fooled into buying on of these cars with the following stipulations:
- There is no warranty from the manufacturer due to water damage!
- Many of these vehicles stop in the middle of the road unexpected this can cause other cars to collide with you!
- If you are a part of an accident air bags may NOT deploy!
- Seat belts don't function properly!
- Anti-lock brakes don't work!
- The cars are complete SCRAP!
- And you are now a part of a potential accident.
- Even worse, the health risk that you are creating for yourself and anyone that rides in this car.
These vehicles aren’t safe on the roads, sadly there are 650,000 plus cars that were damaged.
Do these cars really get into the marketplace?
Oh yes they do! One insurance company recently settled a $40 million lawsuit when it was disclosed that the insurer had dumped almost 30,000 totaled cars at auction without bothering to have them retitled as salvage vehicles. Many of the vehicles will be shredded into little metallic pieces. However, others will end in auctions or sent to your state. This is called washing titles. Not all states print on the title what happened to that auto. If in doubt – walk away from the deal!
Tips to avoid buying flooded cars:
- First, buy from reputable dealers.
- You can find great vehicles buying from private sellers but beware of “curbstoners” – people who sell numerous cars claiming to be private sellers and therefore avoid basic government oversight and no Lemon Law coverage.
- Avoid auctions – unless you are experienced with them.
- Check to make sure the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) match on the door sticker and the dashboard tag.
- Carefully inspect the inside of the car looking for watermarks on door panels, radiators, wheel wells and seat cushions.
- Look for rust on unusual places like door hinges, hood springs, under dash brackets and trunk latches.
- Look for water and moisture inside exterior lighting.
- Beware of cars with new or mismatched upholstery.
- If the car has is a paper air filter, check it – if it has water stains the car has likely been flooded.
- Ask the seller if the vehicle has had flood damage – sounds simple, but answers like “not to the best of my knowledge” or “the previous owner didn’t tell me of any flood damage” are red flags. Get the answer in writing with the bill of sale.
- Ask to see the title – if it is not stamped “flood” or “salvage”, get the car’s history through online sources to find out if this vehicle has come from a recently or previously flooded area of the country.
- Only 10-15% of the cars are reported to these agencies, so have a certified ASE technician inspection the vehicle before you make an offer.
Here’s the Bottom line:
Best have an automotive technician look over the car prior to purchase. Also, look on the FBI flood car site to see if the VIN is a match. If you are a victim of a flood damaged car, in most cases the car is scrap.
If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and safety issues for both the auto industry and consumers. Her analysis is honest and straightforward.
Lauren is the National Automotive Correspondent for Newsmax TV, a conservative news net carried in 23 countries and in over 35 million U.S. cable/satellite homes. She is also The Weather Channel and Inside Edition’s auto expert. Lauren Fix serves as a juror for the esteemed North American Car & Truck of the Year Awards (NACTOY).
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