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Hurricane Damaged Vehicles

  • By Ryan Skidmore

Buy Up Every year hurricane season destroys numerous vehicles. Particularly, in unusually powerful years, resale of damaged vehicles becomes a problem for the entire region around those hurricanes. These vehicles can be moved hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles from their origin. Most common is water damage that can affect every part of a vehicle. Once damaged, the cost to repair a vehicle usually exceeds its value. Insurance companies declare these vehicles a total loss and sell them at auction. From here the plot thickens. Auction companies are eager to move vehicles as quickly as possible because each vehicle costs money to store in their lots. (what happens to all the flooded cars) Fraudsters are eager to purchase these vehicles because there is a healthy supply of them and, relative to other types of damage, water damage is easy to conceal. Usually, the superficial damage is easy to repair.

Clean up Most telling of a dramatic water event, the interior is easily replaced. Carfax recently demonstrated how a water damaged vehicle could be convincingly repaired in a matter of hours. (estimated half of the cars ) Replacing seat upholstery and carpeting, scrubbing discoloration out of hard surfaces, and masking smells are among the few steps needed to fool the average used car buyer. Next is fixing external damage, which is far less severe than interior damage. Most common is mud and sediment from dirty flood waters. Some permanent discoloration might occur to paint, however much of this can be buffed out or covered. Flood waters typically recede within a few days or weeks. Such short exposure makes external damage minimal. Lastly, dents and dings from floating debris will vary in severity, but are usually minor and easy to fix. Restored vehicles are convincing to an infrequent used car buyer. The cars can be sold for as little as half of their market value. (estimated half of the cars) A tempting offering for a novice bargain hunter. Deep inside the vehicles, water damage progresses on electronics and other components typically surfacing within months or even days.

Title Change Up And the cherry on top… an unscrupulous title modification. Scammers reregister soggy vehicles in states with exploitable loopholes. (Harvey-houston-cars-ruined) These labels are meant to confuse consumers with a web of cryptic meanings and bureaucracy. While such labels can usually be revealed with a “Flood Check” via a database offered by Carfax, results can be opaque or inaccurate. Many consumers forego any kind of online check. The best time to watch out for water damaged vehicles is within 6 months of a major hurricane. Short of having a professional mechanic inspect a vehicle, bring a mechanically inclined friend to double check for signs of water damage. Looking for as many signs of water damage as possible and gathering as much information about that vehicle as feasible will be worth NOT purchasing a water damaged vehicle.

Be careful! In summary, when purchasing used vehicles around hurricane season, you have to be extra careful and not fall for deals that you might think are too good to be true.  As a company your fleet is very important and the last thing you need is vehicles breaking down on you.  The next step after purchasing vehicles is making sure to use a fleet tracking solution to manage your entire fleet.  A great fleet tracking solution will also include a feature that will alert you when check engine lights turn on, this will allow you to be proactive with your vehicles and get them checked out before the issue becomes worse.  If you bought used vehicles it is even more important to have a fleet tracking solution so you can get alerted of vehicles issues right away.  Be careful when buying vehicles but also employ a fleet tracking solution to be fully covered.

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