The counts vary, but it has been estimated 225,000 to 300,000 vehicles sustained flood damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. What happened to those vehicles? In some case, unscrupulous opportunists bought them for pennies on the dollar. The vehicles were dried out, shined up and offered for resale for hundreds — sometimes thousands — less than the fair market value. Good deal? Maybe, if you don’t mind the vehicle’s mechanical, electrical or safety systems potentially (more like probably) failing at any time.
Water, especially salt water, causes early corrosion to the electrical components of a vehicle, significantly decreasing their useful life expectancy and causing their failure. In addition, mold and bacteria can grow in the soft materials of the vehicle, creating an undesirable odor and even impacting your health.
Several state attorney general websites have issued consumer advocate warnings to increase awareness of flood vehicles entering their state borders. Do an Internet search on “hurricane Sandy flood vehicles,” and you’ll discover 2,310,000 results discussing the fishy subject.
If you are considering buying a used vehicle, attempt to know its history. The Ohio Attorney General’s office offers some guidance. Consider purchasing a vehicle history report. One major provider is currently offering free VIN checks to determine whether the vehicle was involved in Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina.
Look for visible signs of potential water damage:
- Rust on screws and bolts in unusual places for water contact
- Water stains on upholstery, seat belts, door panels, etc.; look under the trunk carpet
- Strong moldy/musty smell OR a strong disinfectant or deodorizer smell
- Lights or gauges that do not work
Seek the history of that used car you are considering, and educate yourself on the practice of flood vehicle resales. Don’t get caught with a flood of vehicle repair bills.