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Beware of Hurricane-Damaged Vehicles


If you’re looking to purchase a car in today’s market, your search isn’t limited to a 25-mile radius.  I know people who have researched vehicles online and have traveled hundreds of miles to purchase and pick them up.   In a recent article, Cox Automotive has estimated that 20,000 to 40,000 cars have been damaged by the recent flooding in the Carolinas.  And, as what typically happens after a mass-flooding event, these cars are being resold throughout the country to unsuspecting buyers who don’t understand the financial repercussions of purchasing a flood-damaged car.  Buyers beware.

Signs of Flood Damage

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers the followowing tips to identify a previously flooded car:

  • Check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a database of total loss and junk/salvage vehicles.
  • Closely inspect the car for signs of flooding; including a high water mark on the engine block or radiator, signs of rust or corrosion on wires and other engine components, signs of mildew including odors, and new carpet in older vehicles.
  • Ask to see the title before it’s transferred to you.  And, if the seller says they lost the title, do not purchase the vehicle.

Flood VehicleHow Do Flood Damaged Cars Impact Insurance?

Many insurance companies will not provide comprehensive or collision coverage on a flood-damaged vehicle because the vehicles value and extent of repairs are uncertain.  Without comprehensive and collision coverage, you won’t be able to secure a car loan.

If physical damage (comprehensive and collision) is allowed to be added to the vehicle, and the vehicle is later totaled in a loss, the insurance company will likely pay you a value significantly less than a vehicle that did not have flood damage.

The NAIC Consumer Alert can be found here.

Kate Christie
Kate Christie, CISR Elite
Client Service Advisor



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