"Roughly half of the vehicles with salvage titles are resold often in places where the flood never hit, and the sale of flood-damaged cars happens most often in private-party sales than on dealer lots", said Ron Montoya, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor. Carfax estimates that almost half of the flooded vehicles in both Harvey and Irma, will find their way back to the market.
"I have one customer that went $3,000-4,000 dollars into a vehicle they had just purchased and they purchased it for the value price of the vehicle and had no idea", Hill said. Look for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles.
Hurricane Harvey, and now, Irma, have amplified the risk of buying a used auto.
We urge anybody who needs a vehicle to not act too quickly, unless it's brand new.
To help consumers, Carfax set up a resource page where auto buyers can enter a vehicle identification number and email address to get a free flood-damage report sent to them.
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles were damaged in the two storms.
Conduct a title search of the vehicle. Flood damage can cause lasting harm. Fragile electronic components can be fine at first, but give expensive trouble later on, possibly months or years down the road.
Be Extra Careful - Keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Insurers typically declare them a total loss and turn them over to auction houses or salvage yards.
Potential buyers should also check inside the glove compartment or in-between the seats for the appearance of residual sludge or debris.
You should look out for rust on the underside of the vehicle and check the carpets for a musty smell.
Shannon describes these "little gremlins" as when your windows stop working, your check engine light comes on, and other electrical issues. "Start with a thorough test drive, a vehicle history report and a mechanic's inspection before buying any used auto", Raines continued.
Most flood-damaged cars are covered by insurance.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website.
Carfax is allowing consumers to check for flood damage at carfax.com/flood at no cost. But if scammers remove the history, you wouldn't know. Maybe the interior can be cleaned and the mechanical systems repaired, but Popular Mechanics says the complex and intricate electrical systems in today's vehicles are probably beyond fix if they were submerged. Finally, take a good whiff in those areas. Try to use one that is ASE-certified and/or you have an existing relationship with. But there's ways to spot those kinds of vehicles to make sure you don't end up with a lemon.