Flood-Damaged Vehicles Common Occurrence in Florida
The Sunshine State is known not only for its beaches, blue skies and warm temperatures but also hurricanes and tropical storms. While “It Never Rains in California,” Florida sees a lot of the wet stuff.
Residents who have experienced bad weather know it easily can lead to water damage in their homes. It only takes a few inches to ruin flooring and furniture – both expensive to fix and replace.
Water damage also can impact vehicles, and it often does. Even a rainstorm or a squall can intrude through window cracks, trunk lids and the undercarriage, leaving behind soaked, stinky mess. More-severe weather events can administer major damage.
Unscrupulous owners of flooded vehicles long have scammed buyers from other states – like California – who are unsuspecting of that aesthetically refurbished lemon.
“These hurricane-battered vehicles may appear normal at first glance, but mechanical and electrical problems can appear long after the seller is gone,” according to GEICO, which offers the following tips on how to recognize a flood-damaged car:
Lift the hood and look for dirty, grit-covered or rusted components.
Check for standing water in the spare-tire well.
Take a sniff. If you detect a mildewy or musty smell, be suspicious. Also be suspicious if the vehicle you are considering purchasing has new upholstery and / or recently shampooed carpet.
“Scrubbing flood-damaged cars and reselling them isn’t a new scam – damaged cars were unloaded after Hurricanes Floyd (1999) and Ivan (2004),” GEICO points out.
Another consumer-protection measure involves obtaining a vehicle-history report. CARFAX, which provides such reports, offers a free flood-check tool. All you do is enter the vehicle-identification number of the car in question, and the Web site does the rest.
“Flood damaged cars can be hard to detect at first glance, but thoroughly checking your vehicle before purchase can reduce your risk of unknowingly buying a flood damaged car,” according to CARFAX.
Other sure signs of a vehicle with water damage include brittle or broken wires beneath the dashboard, silt in the glove compartment and / or underneath the seats and condensation or fog behind the instrument panel.
When superstorm Sandy barreled up the eastern seaboard in 2013, close to a quarter-million vehicles sustained damage – nearly 200,000 of which were in New Jersey and New York.
“The important message to used vehicle consumers is to be aware that severely damaged vehicles may appear advertised for sale without any indication that they were at all affected by Sandy,” states a news release issued by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “As always, buyers should be careful when considering a used vehicle purchase in the weeks and months following a disaster such as Sandy.”
Probably the best advice on avoiding buying a flood-damaged vehicle is to have it professionally inspected.
“Spending a little extra time to thoroughly check out a used car before you buy it can save you a great deal of money in the long run,” the Progressive’s Web site states.