HAK News

All Those Flood Damaged Vehicles…

300,000 – 500,000 is the September estimate of severely damaged or destroyed vehicles from Hurricane Harvey according to Cox Automotive, the parent company of Kelley Blue Book. Add in Hurricane Irma and other flood events from across the United States this year and that number quickly grows.

What happens to all those vehicles?

The answer to this question depends on whether the vehicle was insured.

For those vehicles that are insured, a claim is filed and an adjuster inspects the vehicle. If it is declared a total loss, then the vehicle ends up at an auto recycler for dismantling. If it can be refurbished, it is given a salvage title based on its flood experience and a history report will list the repairs. Unfortunately, not all dealers are upfront with information, so it’s a good idea to always ask about the title and request to see a history report before purchasing.

For the uninsured vehicles, the process is up to the owner. They can follow the same path for a total loss or get a salvage title, but that’s not always the case. With flood damage, the effects may not be visible at first allowing these vehicles to stay on the road without a change to their titles or history.

What’s the problem with flood damage?

While our vehicles are designed for the outdoors and to survive rain or some standing water, they are not designed to be submerged. We may think of this affecting our brakes or the engine, which it does, but our vehicles today also have electronics throughout. Most of the electronics are there to make our vehicles safer and we may not notice their damage until we need them.

Are there signs of flood damage?

It may be hard to tell if a vehicle has been in flood, especially if it’s been dried out and cleaned up, but NADA, Autotrader & Kelley Blue Book all have tips to help identify a vehicle that may have been in a flood. We have combine their lists into these 6 tips:

  1. How does it smell? A first sign of water damage may be a musty odor.
  2. Check the vehicle history, VIN and title for a history of flood or water related repairs. Also, check that the VIN on the title and reports match the VIN on the vehicle. In some cases a vehicle can pass inspection and be given a new, clean title and new VIN number.
  3. See if there are interior water stains that are not related to normal use (like a window left open).
  4. Is there dirt, grit or even mud in places it shouldn’t be? Check under the hood, in the trunk and around the spare tire.
  5. Test all the powered features, like the windows, door locks and mirrors to see if they function properly, consistently or not at all.
  6. Is there rust where it shouldn’t be based on normal use? For example, on screws in the console.