COLORADO SPRINGS — It’s been about two weeks since Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida leveling homes and businesses, and leaving people’s vehicles underwater. In most cases flood-damaged vehicles are totaled, but consumer advocates warn sometimes they’ll wind up in other parts of the country and buyers have no idea they’re getting the headaches that come with a flood-damaged car.
Vehicle history experts say many of the cars that were flooded-out in Florida recently will be repaired and resold without disclosing they were flood-damaged. CARFAX believes more than 300,000 flooded cars were back on the roads in 2021 and it believes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian even more will be on the move in an expensive used car market. They could even wind up here in Colorado.
”The cost to repair these cars far exceeds the value of any car,” said Jamie Dodd of Autosmith, a locally owned repair shop in Colorado Springs.
She sees vehicles come in and out of her repair garage bringing with them backstories from all corners of the country, including vehicles with flood-damage.
”It’s driving great, but the minute corrosion sets in then you have issues. A myriad of issues. You get wiring issues and you have electronic components that are now no longer working,” said Dodd.
A bottomless pit of repairs and often uninsurable, Dodd says in her experience flood-damaged vehicles from major storms will often be put up for sale in other parts of the country. Technicians at Autosmith are prepared to see this again after Hurricane Ian.
”Those cars start making their way into our market. We have a really large shortage of used cars so they are going to seize opportunities to bring cars up to sell them because they know how desperate we are to get our hands on good used vehicles,” said Dodd.
It’s best to take any car you’re interested in buying to a repair shop you trust to have it inspected by the pros, but if you’re on your own Consumer Reports offers advice to help spot a flood-damaged vehicle.
- Inspect the vehicle carpets for signs of water or a musty or mold smell
- Check seat mounting and unpainted screws for signs of rust or if they’ve been removed to pull things out to dry
- Look in the trunk and under the hood for mud or debris
- Inspect lights and reflectors for signs of a water line.
”Any place will tell you to walk away if it’s not livable or salvageable,” said Dodd.
President of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association Tim Jackson says there are questions you should ask before you even search for flood-damage because it’s not always easy to spot.
”Number one, has this car been in Florida? If it has been registered in Florida I’d be skeptical right now and over the next two to three years really,” said Jackson.
He says if you’re buying from a private seller you need to be careful and even at a car lot it’s important to understand what information should be disclosed as a part of that vehicle title.
”If that car was ever in a fire, if that car was ever in a flood, if that car was ever totaled out and rebuilt. It’s illegal to sell a car without reporting that,” said Jackson.
It’s important to remember vehicle history reports are a great step in helping to evaluate the condition of a car, but could be missing key information if it was never reported. That’s why scheduling a detailed inspection of a vehicle before you buy it is ultimately the best protection for us as consumers.
If you have questions for the repair experts at Autosmithyou can contact them here.
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