We have seen thousands and thousands of flood damaged vehicles caused by Hurricane Harvey on the news.  Many of the vehicles flooded in Houston and the surrounding areas will end up in junkyards.  Other flooded vehicles could end up on the used car market in states farther away.  Vehicles submerged in water, especially those in salt water, will not show serious mechanical problems right away.  These vehicles may only get cosmetic repairs to mask long-term issues that include rust, mold and mechanical problems to engine.

Unfortunately it is not illegal to sell a vehicle damaged by flood waters.   You can find many auctions that specialize in selling buyers damaged vehicles they can repair in exchange for a bargain.  Flooded vehicles should be clearly identified but that is not always the case.  If you are shopping for a new vehicle be careful to not end up buying a flooded vehicle and left with an expensive repair bill.  Always check a vehicle’s history as private owners can resell unreported flooded vehicles because they were unable to make an insurance claim.  Watch out for “title washing” a process individuals practice by repairing flooded vehicles and transport to other states where damages may not carry over.

Tips to Avoid Purchasing Flood Damaged Vehicles

  • Examine vehicle for signs of flood damage

A strong odor of disinfectant, water stains, rust, new upholstery and shampooed carpets are signs of cosmetics repairs made to flooded vehicles.  Be thorough when examining a vehicle, looking for beads of water surrounding vehicle’s light and rust under the gas and brake pedals.

  • Obtain a detailed report of vehicle’s history

There are several websites that can help verify car history, past ownership, accident history, liens, maintenance and prior flood damage.  Two of those websites are:

–   The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) https:/www/www.vehiclehistory.gov/

–   Carfax https:/www/www.carfax.com/

  • Have the VIN checked

Check the vehicle’s VIN to verify if at any point the vehicle was reported stolen or salvaged through:

–   The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) https:/www/www.nicb.org/.

  • Review all title and ownership documents

Make sure to review title documents and other vehicle information to ensure accuracy.  For example, the seller’s information should match what is listed on the title to confirm ownership.

  • Take a mechanic inspect the vehicle

Retain services from a professional mechanic that you trust to go and inspect the vehicle for any signs of flood damage.