Hurricane Florence damaged 40,000 cars

Waxhaw, North Carolina - September 16, 2018: Motorists inspect a road flooded by rain from Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence was not nearly as destructive as Harvey and some other recent storms, but it still caused its share of damage. While Hurricane Harvey is estimated to have damaged or destroyed 600,00 vehicles, Florence is estimated to have caused damage to 40,000 cars. Any storm can cause a lot of damage, and then there is the question of what happens to these vehicles.

Already state officials in Tennessee and the Carolinas are warning people to be on the lookout for cars for sale that have flood damage. Some of those 40,000 cars will be taken to other parts of the country and sold to unwary shoppers. Even a cleaned up car that has been flooded, that looks and smells good, can have electronic damage that will not emerge until later. Often, the oil filters, carpeting and seats are changed but more severe and less visible damage remains.

You can check a car’s background to see if it has been totaled for insurance purposes, or if it has been in an accident. Another thing to do is have your mechanic look the car over. Any reputable car dealer will understand you wanting to do this, and if any salesman hesitates, that should be a red flag. Having a mechanic look at a used car is so common now, it would raise suspicion if anyone tried to prevent you from having that done.

In most cases you can tell if a car has been in a flood by looking at the Carfax, and there are other agencies where you can get a car’s history. It is only a problem when dishonest people try to clean up a flooded car and sell it as though it has not been flooded.

There is a thing called a flood title, which is a car that has been refurbished after a flood. There are also salvage titles for cars that have been rebuilt after a major crash. These cars are pretty cheap, but it is still a big risk. No matter how it looks, problems could emerge later on that are not now apparent.

When looking at a used car, check the carpeting for water damage. Look for mud or water damage below the spare tire, in the seat belts, and other places that would be hard to clean.

Cars that are flooded are often sold to salvage yards, where usable parts can be used again. These can be high quality used parts that are fine to use. They are essentially just used parts.