452,000 flood vehicles on the road; more could ‘flood’ the market soon

452,000 flood vehicles on the road; more could ‘flood’ the market soon

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road have been in a flood, and more could soon flood the market following Hurricane Idalia and other recent natural disasters, according to Carfax.

“If an area gets a big flood, they have a lot of cars that were flooded, and they’re not going to sell them in that market. They’re going to ship it somewhere else, and we could be the recipient of some of those vehicles,” said Jim Garnand, the owner of Hi-Tech Car Care in Phoenix.

Flood-damaged cars should end up branded with a title that says ‘salvage’ or ‘flood damage.’ However, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, scammers can fraudulently remove flood history from vehicle titles. It’s called title washing. “The insurer does all the right thing. They pay out. The states brand the car, and then the car might go to a salvage auction, or it might change hands really fast,” said Carfax’s Faisal Hasan. “There are bad guys who go out and buy these cars. They clean them up. They’re professionals at doing this. They try to dry them out, and then they’ll try to sell them as just a clean car.”

According to a Carfax analysis, there are 452,000 vehicles on the road right now that have been in a flood. “That’s a 13% increase, and we’re only at the end of August, from 2022 when we saw 399,000 cars, and we expect to see an increase when you look at the floods in Vermont, California, and Florida. We expect in the next couple of months for that number to go up,” Hasan explained. “Salt water is going to create even more corrosion, and when you look at electric vehicles, that’s even more dangerous. We know just from talking to federal officials and from experts that if an electric vehicle has been in any kind of water, but salt water in particular, and that salt water starts to crust up on the battery and different other places, you could ignite a fire.”

There are red flags that can help tip off a car shopper to flood damage. “The biggest thing is smell,” Garnand said. “If the vehicle had water, but it doesn’t have water damage, it’s usually not going to have any aroma to it. If it was parked somewhere and got flooded, it’s usually going to stink like a bad gym locker.”

Once a vehicle has passed the smell test, do a quick visual inspection. “If you look at where the seat brackets are, there’s a well around it and a nut. It’s really almost impossible to clean that all the way clean, so you should see some debris in there,” Garnand explained. “If the nut looks like there’s been a wrench on it, the paint is disturbed, they may have taken all the stuff out and cleaned out the interior and put it back together. Almost every car you’ve looked at, those nuts have never been touched, so if every seat looks like they’ve had the seats out, it’s a good reason to be suspicious.”

Car shoppers should also take the vehicle to an independent mechanic who can get it up on a lift. “Flood vehicles, these cover plates, we’d take those off, and we could find leaves and whatever was floating,” Garnand said. “For the most part, it’s just looking for things that just look out of place or abnormal.”

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