Stay alert for hurricane-damaged vehicles


Know the history of any used car you plan to purchase.


It has been estimated that millions of vehicles have sustained flood damage as a result of hurricanes in recent years. What happens to those vehicles? In some cases, unscrupulous opportunists may buy them for pennies on the dollar and offer them for resale to the public.

Vehicles can be dried out, fitted with new carpet, 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.

If you are considering buying a used vehicle, attempt to know its history. Consider purchasing a vehicle history report.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers tips on what to know about hurricane-damaged vehicles.

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.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and loss control services.

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