The unpredictability of water damage can make vehicles dangerous and not road worthy. Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in late October 2012, and there have been alarming predictions that hundreds of thousands of flood damaged cars have hit the used car market. An Associated Press analysis of claims data supplied by major insurance companies shows the number of cars reported damaged so far is a fraction of that.
“It’s not anything near what we’re talking about in the Katrina situation,” said James Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, a statewide association of more than 500 dealers.
Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an insurance company group that monitors fraud and other trends, concurred, saying insurers watched by his group are logging far fewer claims than they did with Katrina. It doesn’t translate to there’s going to be 2, 3, 400,000 cars out of this thing just because this is such a huge geographic storm,” Scafidi said.
Chris Basso, public relations manager for Carfax, says “historically, about half of all flood damaged vehicles will make their way back on the road in the U.S. over the next few months. It’s totally legal as long as there’s disclosure.” Basso said most of the cars will be sold with disclosure.
“We always recommend people take three steps when they’re buying a used car,” he said. “The first is to test drive the vehicle and inspect it for signs of water damage. This would show up as silt or debris in the engine or rust damage on the vehicle. If you buy a car from one of the more than 30,000 dealerships, you can get a Carfax report for free. If you’re buying the vehicle from a private seller, the report costs about $40. You can also check Flood.carfax.com for free. Just enter the vehicle’s 17 digit VIN number and the site will tell you if there’s been any flood damage reported for that vehicle. You can also find out if the last known location of the vehicle was a FEMA declared disaster zone.”
Basso also recommends getting the vehicle inspected by a mechanic (a step that most people skip, he said). An inspection costs around $60-$100 — which is well worth it for a major investment like a car, not to mention the safety of you and your loved ones.
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