We have all seen the devastating images, and heard about the overwhelming destruction of land and property from the back to back hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. Remember those pictures of rows and rows of vehicles being almost completely submerged in water? Well what do you think is going to happen to all those vehicles? For most of them, they are going to be written off as a total loss by insurance companies, since it is almost impossible to fix or repair a vehicle that has been caught in a flood.
Unfortunately, even though nearly all of these vehicles are going to be totaled, and branded as “salvaged” or “flood damaged,” there are still unscrupulous car sellers out there who will try and pass them off as undamaged cars. If you remember after Hurricane Katrina, a little-know practice of “title washing” emerged. How this works is, car owners remove their vehicle’s salvaged or flood-damaged branding, by transferring their title to a different state that does not recognize that type of branding. Oftentimes, they will even transfer it across multiple state lines, muddying the trail even further. Eventually, the title becomes clean, hence the term title washing.
While water might not seem like such a big deal, it really is when it comes to your vehicle. Cars that have been flooded, will rot from the inside out. It is literally impossible to remove all the water from a vehicle, and dry it out enough that there won’t continue to be lasting damage. Electrical systems and wiring will eventually fail, mechanical system will start to seize up and internal components will begin to rust from the inside out. Obviously, the integrity of the car is going to be compromised, but adding insult to injury, is the growth of mold along with nasty smells and dirt that will forever inhabit the interior of the car!
The current estimates coming out of Texas alone, is that there are over 500,000 flood-damaged cars that are being shipped out to unsuspecting buyers all across the United States. Numbers still haven’t emerged from Florida and its surrounding neighbors, but there is likely to be just as many from there as well. Believe us, you do NOT want to purchase one of these flood damaged vehicles, but how can you tell if the car you are buying has been affected or not? Well, here are a few tips to help you spot one of these vehicles:
- Take a sniff. Musty or moldy odors inside the cabin are a sign of prolonged exposure to water. Likewise, strong air fresheners and cleaning solution smells can be a sign of a cover up. We recommend also running the A/C to see if moldy odors come from the vents.
- Watch for discolored carpeting or upholstery. Standing water in a vehicle will often leave a water line. Some used cars have even been brought into Arizona with brand new upholstery – once again, a cover up!
- Examine the car for water or dirt buildup. Fogged up headlights, taillights, or dash panels; muddy areas where water would pool, such as under the seats and on the floorboards; or a water line in the engine compartment or trunk are sure signs that the car has been exposed to standing water.
Another great idea is to have a reliable mechanic perform a pre-purchase inspection of any vehicle you are considering buying. They will be able to spot any residual mud from a flood in hard to see areas such as behind wiring harnesses and alternator crevices. They will also inspect your power steering pumps and starter motors, among other things, which are highly susceptible to water damage. Also, by pulling the CARFAX history or running an AutoCheck, they can help you spot any inconsistencies which will point to possible title washing.
Not only will a thorough pre-purchase inspection give you peace of mind about a vehicle you are considering buying, it can also help you negotiate the best price for a quality used car – or give you the signal that you need to run the opposite direction!
Our best advice is to always shop from reputable car dealers and make sure to question anything that might look or sound suspicious. To help you out, we are even offering a 10% off coupon for first time customers. Don’t just buy a used car and hope for the best, bring it into our auto repair shop and we will do a thorough pre-purchase inspection for you – and give you 10% off!