INDIANAPOLIS — Cars and trucks flooded by Hurricane Ian will soon be cleaned up and sold in Indiana and other states to unsuspecting car buyers.
Currently, an estimated 400,000 on the road nationwide have a waterlogged history, according to Carfax, a company that provides vehicle history reports.
“That’s before Hurricane Ian hit,” Emilie Voss, a spokesperson for Carfax, said. “They take these cars; they clean them up and then they sell them to unsuspecting buyers."
Flooded vehicles can make their way to Indiana in several ways, including scammers who are trying to make a quick buck.
You will find Hurricane Ian flooded vehicles on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace, as well as car dealer lots.
"Sometimes there are unscrupulous sellers whether that be a dealer or a private seller who then turns around and looks to make profit by not disclosing that it has flood damage in its history,” Voss said. “Some that go the insurance claim route will be sold at auction and end up back on the roads."
Indiana currently ranks 15th in the nation when it comes to the number of flood-damaged vehicles on the road, with 8,700, which is a 4% increase from 2021.
It can be difficult to spot a flood-damaged vehicle.
“To the naked eye they look completely fine, but they're literally rotting from the inside out,” Voss said. “It is scary. It's scary, especially for an unsuspecting buyer."
Carfax offers a free flood check here.
Put in the Vehicle Identification and the tool will tell you whether a vehicle has had a flooding event in the past.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also offers VIN checks here.
If the seller is using a fraudulent title, it can make it even more difficult to spot a soggy past.
That’s why it is important to have a mechanic check the vehicle before buying, and also take the car for a test drive.
Remember these tips from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for spotting flood-damaged vehicles when shopping around:
- Sniff Test: If the car smells musty, there is a high likelihood it has been exposed to water. If it has a strong smell of deodorizer or air freshener, it is possible the seller is trying to mask the smell of mildew.
- Dirt and Grime: Mud, dirt, or waterlines inside the vehicle are possible signs of flood damage. Don’t forget to check hidden spots for dirt and watermarks, like the trunk, glove box, and under the dashboard.
- Rust and Corrosion: Check under the vehicle to see if there is an unusual amount of rust or corrosion for the vehicle’s age and location.