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Thousands of cars destroyed, worries about tight market, flooded cars

Flooded vehicles may soon hit the market in other states, experts warn
Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-12 05:10:22-04

Thousands of southwest Florida residents will be in the market for a new car after floods and winds from Hurricane Ian destroyed vehicles up-and-down the coast.

CARFAX, a company that supplies vehicle history reports, estimates that as many as 385,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the storm in Florida and the Carolinas.

Now there’s concern among some that these flooded cars may hit the market in other places.

“Cosmetically these cars might look great, but if you don’t know what to look for, it’s nearly impossible to tell they are literally rotting from the inside out,” said Emilie Voss, a spokesperson from CARFAX.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a warning to consumers last week about the possibility of flooded cars hitting the market.

“Flooded cars are often shipped to places hundreds of miles from areas hit by storms and may be dangerous to drive or pose health risks,” Raoul said in a statement.

“The current tight market for used cars can make buyers more likely to rush into a sale, but I urge consumers to investigate the condition of any vehicles they are considering purchasing.”

Once a flooded car is totaled it does get a new title, called a “salvage title,” then are sold at auction, usually to junkyards or to people looking for spare parts.

“After a catastrophic event like this there could be a lot of vehicles that have been flooded out that some scammers might try to pawn off on you. So, you certainly want to have a heightened sense of awareness when you’re on the car market, looking for a new vehicle,” said Mark Jenkins with AAA.

Jenkins says the insurance company has already had more than a thousand car insurance claims filed in southwest Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Given the recent bottleneck of new and used car sales, due to a global computer chip shortage and supply chain issues, experts worry the market may be rough for many consumers.

“AAA has received almost a thousand auto claims. And a lot of these vehicles have been flooded, or any other level of damage,” Jenkins said.

“It might be difficult for drivers to find a new vehicle because of the vehicle shortage that’s been out there.”

CARFAX has a list of seven telltale signs of flooding:

  1. A musty odor in the interior, which sellers sometimes try to cover with a strong air-freshener
  2. Upholstery or carpeting that may be loose, new, stained or that doesn't match the rest of the interior
  3. Damp carpets
  4. Rust around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches
  5. Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under the seats
  6. Brittle wires under the dashboard
  7. Fog or moisture beads in the interior lights, exterior lights or instrument panel
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