RELEASE: In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, consumers should avoid buying flooded vehicles

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CLEVELAND – In the weeks and months ahead, consumers should watch out for vehicles for sale that were damaged by flooding during Hurricane Ian.

Last year, CarFax estimated that flood waters from Hurricane Ida damaged as many as 212,000 cars. That storm caused flooding from Louisiana all the way up to New York. How many of these vehicles ended up for sale without the seller disclosing the flood damage? No one knows. But even one is too many. Now, after Hurricane Ian drenched vehicles throughout the Southeast, the same risk is back for car buyers.

“Flood waters cause all sorts of hidden damage which can surface months later and cause a vehicle to be nothing more than a nearly worthless heap of junk,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog with U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. “You don’t want anything to do with a flooded vehicle, no matter whether the damage is disclosed and no matter what assurances you get from a seller. If you suspect a vehicle may have sustained flood damage, move on. Don’t be tempted to chance it. If you buy a flood-damaged vehicle, you’ll almost surely be buying a headache and just wasting your money.”

Consumers always need to be on the lookout for people who want to take advantage of them and should never buy a vehicle they suspect endured a flood.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has compiled a list of tips to help consumers avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle. Among them:

  1. Look up a vehicle’s history by running the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) through a free database, such as the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck. Carfax also offers a free flood check of the car’s VIN. 
  2. Inspect the car for clues such as sand under the floor mats, moisture in the headlights or signs of discoloration or residue around metal screws or bolts. When an unscrupulous seller cleans a car thoroughly, flood damage may not be obvious. 
  3. Have the vehicle professionally inspected by a mechanic you trust. (You should do this with any used vehicle you’re ever considering buying.) 

For further explanations about how to spot a salvage title and more helpful tips, go to our guide: How to avoid used cars with flood damage.