INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Ida will soon be for sale in Indiana, according to Carfax, a commercial web-based service that supplies vehicle history reports.
“Overall, we estimate up to 212,000 were damaged by Hurricane Ida,” said Chris Basso, spokesperson for Carfax. “In addition, more than 378,000 flood-damaged cars were already on U.S. roads as of 2021 before Ida hit.”
More than half of flood-damaged vehicles are resold, according to Carfax.
It can be difficult to tell if a car has been through a flood.
“Con men look for opportunities to clean up flooded cars and move them to areas where flooding is less prominent and where consumers are less likely to look for flood damage on the car they’re buying,” said Basso.
If you’re looking for a used car, be mindful of where you shop.
“Reputable dealers are aware of the flood damage problem and they’re looking for those cars and avoiding putting them on their lot,” said Basso. “Where people run into trouble is private sales especially sales through Craigslist or a private seller who is really pushy and wants to get rid of that car quickly. That raises a red flag right there if somebody is trying to sell you a car real quick at a real good price, make sure you’re pumping the brakes.”
Auto dealers have to get salvage cars inspected by law enforcement before they can get a title, such as rebuilt or flood-damaged.
It’s perfectly legal for dealers and individuals to sell a flood-damaged vehicle, but the proper documentation must follow the car for its lifetime.
CARFAX’s estimate for flood-damaged cars on the road in 2021 is 8,400.
While some websites charge a fee to run a vehicle’s history, others, like Carfax, will check for flooding history for free.
Also, before you buy, take the car to a mechanic and have them check for watermarks, rust, and corrosion, as well as brittle wires.
You can also look for red flags yourself like a musty odor or damp carpets.
“Once water gets inside the car it’s going to start rusting the metal parts inside prematurely,” said Basso. “Look at the metal parts like the seatbelts to see if there’s any rusting, look for dry mud or silt, look for water droplets inside the headlights and taillights. If someone is rushing you into a decision if the car is priced lower than it should be—those are all things you want to make sure you’re looking out for.”
Floodwater can impact the mechanical and electrical systems of your vehicle and cause things like overheating, transmission failure, short-circuiting wires, and computer malfunctions.
It can also cause mold and bacteria to grow in your car’s ventilation system, which can cause health problems.
According to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, a dealer should notify you in writing prior to purchase if the vehicle has a salvaged, rebuilt, or flood-damaged title, but only if the vehicle is seven years old or less.