TAMPA, Fla. — Even before Ian pummeled Florida, the sunshine state ranked second in the country when it comes to the number of flood-damaged vehicles on the road. Now that number is expected to surge.
CARFAX estimates Ian soaked at least 350,000 vehicles. Many of these waterlogged sedans and SUVs could be resold in Tampa Bay.
And according to CARFAX spokesperson Emilie Voss, it's all perfectly legal.
“A lot of times the insurance companies will put those cars up for sale at a salvage auction,” she said.
How do you avoid getting behind the wheel of a damaged money pit?
For starters, pull the vehicle history report. Checking for reported flood damage is free and easy. You just need the vehicle's VIN.
CARFAX offers this free online tool, and Experian’s AutoCheck flood risk tool is also free.
Buyers can’t rely solely on what’s on paper, as uninsured cars may not show up on any report. Before buying any car, check for these telltale signs of water damage.
- A musty odor in the interior, which sellers sometimes try to cover with a strong air-freshener
- Upholstery or carpeting that may be loose, new, stained, or doesn’t seem to match the rest of the interior
- Damp carpets
- Rust around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals, or inside the hood and trunk latches
- Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under the seats
- Brittle wires under the dashboard
- Fog or moisture beads in the interior lights, exterior lights, or instrument panel
The safest course of action when buying a used vehicle is to have a certified mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection.
Florida law requires that the vehicle title clearly labels a car as flood damaged. And that dealers disclose the fact in writing.
But unscrupulous dealers don’t always disclose the damage which is why car buyers should check all of the above before signing on the dotted line.