Ida could bring water-damaged cars to a hot used car market


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The floods from Hurricane Ida are creating a flood of water-damaged cars – cars that experts say will soon be making their way into the supply chain.

When a car gets flooded, the water does more damage than you think. It’s not just a case of drying the vehicle out and cleaning it up, there’s usually permanent damage.

These days, there’s a big market for used cars because of the shortage of new automobiles caused by the unavailability of computer chips.

At any other time but now, John Hiester’s Chevy dealership In Fuquay Varina would be filled with new cars.

“Normally every inch of pavement we have would have cars parked on it,” said Hiester.

The lack of new cars due to the chip shortage puts a greater demand on used cars and the floods of Hurricane Ida are suddenly going to put a lot of used cars on the market.

“Everything available is going to make its way into the supply chain right now,” Hiester said.

When a car is inundated with floodwaters, surface damage to the interior and the body can be removed with a good cleanup, but there will still be hidden damage.

Many times, water also creates damage to electrical components. Those connections are very important because they are what runs the whole car.

With used cars in high demand, dealers like Hiester take precautions not to acquire flood cars.

“We look for things like rust on the rotors, or on the bolts and undercarriage,” he said. “Other than that, we’ll certainly rely on AutoCheck and CARFAX.”

Consumers can also use the free flood checking services of both AutoCheck and CARFAX to see if an automobile has reported flood damage.

Those reports should also include any insurance claims due to flooding. Also, a used car totaled for flood damage should indicate that on the title.

Hiester says anyone trying to slip a flood car through to a dealer via the automobile auction will also face difficulties.

“The layers of protection are there,” he said. “The auction will check, the DMV will check, and the dealer will check.”

But sometimes flood cars make back on the roads.

CARFAX estimates over 446,000 flood-damaged cars are being driven right now.

If repairs were done without filing an insurance claim, or if a scammer took the car to a different state and retitled the car in a scheme known as title washing, flood damage may not show up in some types of reports.

The best way to avoid a flood car is to buy from a reputable dealer – one whose license is on the line and who won’t risk its loss by misrepresenting a vehicle.

You should also avoid third-party sales and do your research.

Check and see if the car you are interested in originated in an area that’s been hit by hurricane flooding especially if it has a suspiciously low price.

You also need to see it has what kind of repairs were made prior to its sale, which will give you an indication that it may have been flood-damaged.

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