Hurricane Ida left a destructive path of flood waters stretching from the southeast to the northeast, wreaking havoc in communities by damaging vehicles, homes, businesses and property. In the storm’s aftermath, consumers in the market for used cars need to be wary of flood-damaged vehicles now and through 2022.
Flood-damaged automobiles will wind up on the used car market, in auctions and on dealer lots, all around the country as desperate owners with a lot of equity in their vehicles try to salvage whatever value they can from a vehicle inundated by floodwaters.
Used car shoppers need to know how to spot flood damage vehicles no matter where they live, because these cars are going to end up on a dealer lot from coast to coast,” said AiM Mobile Inspections’ Jason Soriano, who has nearly 30 years of experience inspecting vehicles. Flood damaged cars are never the same as before.
AiM Mobile Inspections and its team of more than 600 full-time inspectors review vehicles throughout the United States, providing detailed condition reports for clients ranging from consumers, dealers and auctions to automotive manufacturers. AiM’s independent, 150-point inspection clearly identifies problems on vehicles for buyers and sellers. The company has instructed its inspectors to pay particular attention to flood damage due to this year’s severe weather.
It’s like 2011 all over again with flood-damaged vehicles trickling into the used car marketplace, except this year has been especially tough on dealers and car buyers,” said Eric Widmer, cofounder and senior vice president of sales and marketing at AiM. â€œWith the recent shortage of new vehicles, the used vehicle supply chain has been the industry’s go-to marketplace, but now, itâ€™ll be constricted even more. Dealers and consumers should be on alert so they don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes on a flood-damaged vehicle.
Many states issue a flood or salvage title to a vehicle that has been submerged or flood-damaged, information which can be found on a vehicle history report. Consumers concerned about flood damage should refer to the history report and also be ready to do some investigating of their own.
However, some sellers may try to unload their car or truck before a flood or salvage title appears on a vehicle’s history report. To combat this possibility, Soriano offered these warning signs to help identify flood damage in a vehicle:
- A musty odor in the vehicle, which may be from moldy carpeting or padding. If possible, pull up the carpeting to see how far water may have risen in the vehicle, and also if any moisture remains.
- Mud in the seat belt tracks or seat belt tensioners.
- Water or condensation in the headlights or taillights. Soriano notes this could also be due to an accident, but water in these areas could also be a tip-off to flood-related problems.
- Water in the spare tire well in a vehicle’s trunk. Water in the spare tire well, is a sign we need to look a little further,” said Soriano.
- A sagging headliner in the interior, particularly on a late-model vehicle.
- Look under the seats. “I found a fish under a backseat,” said Soriano, who was inspecting cars at Port Newark in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy struck. “It was pretty obvious sign the car had been under water.”
- Corrosion in the vehicle’s undercarriage, such as on brake lines or around the fuel tank. When corrosion appears near the top of the springs or shock towers are corroded, these are signs of flood-related damage.
A car’s engine, electronics, fuel system, airbags and brakes are all extremely susceptible to flood water,” said Soriano. “Its extremely important to find any water damage before you invest your money in a used car, and a professional inspection will help identify flood damage no matter how a seller tries to hide it.