It’s a familiar cycle: First, there are news reports of treacherous storms and massive flooding. Then, as things settle down, there are warnings about waterlogged cars filling the market, spreading all across the United States.
And it’s certainly true that, thanks to Harvey and Irma, there are probably close to half a million flooded vehicles that have recently been added to used car databases. Buying a waterlogged car is asking for trouble, but the good news is, some basic due diligence can protect your purchase.
Who’s Selling Waterlogged Vehicles?
The first thing to understand is that most of the vehicles hit hard by the storms will be written off by auto insurance companies. The owner will get a payment and the insurer will report the vehicle, using its VIN number, to a searchable database. In other words, there is care taken to ensure that most flooded vehicles don’t simply float back into used car showrooms—and if you do your research and make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller, you can typically avoid any problems.
As for the cars that are written off by insurers, most will go to salvage auctions. Buyers at these salvage auctions know that the cars they are seeing have been through something horrible—whether flooding or major collision—so this is very much a buyer beware/shop at your own risk scenario.
Meanwhile, buyers always have the option of using the VIN number of a particular car to go online and find more detailed information about the vehicle’s history. If a car has been declared flood-damaged, the VIN will usually be enough to reveal as much.
What About Disreputable Sellers?
Unfortunately, there are some sneaky sellers who will try to push bad cars through the system, and some loopholes through which flood-damaged vehicles slip. As such, all buyers should exercise vigilance.
This is where using that VIN, at a place like Carfax, is important. Most dealerships will provide you with a Carfax report, but if you’re not offered one, always request one.
Inspecting the car for signs of flooding is also an important step, as sometimes the vehicle title won’t tell you the honest story. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
− Caked-on mud
− New carpets in an old vehicle
− Musty odors
− Visible water line on the headlights
− Mud or debris in strange or difficult-to-reach places
− Rusty screws under the dashboard
If you spot any of these issues, that’s a good sign that the car’s been through some flooding—and probably isn’t a wise purchase.
Shop from Reputable Dealerships
As you seek to shop wisely, we recommend seeking out reputable used car dealerships—and we’d love to help you connect with one. Find an affordable car, in great condition, from a dealer in your area by contacting Get My Auto today!