An estimated 500,000 cars in Texas have been flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which will cost insurers $4.7 billion to cover, financial analysts figure.
Florida is watching Hurricane Irma closely on its own doorstep, and Harvey provides a reminder to secure vehicles on ground as high as possible.
Human life and safety of course remains the most important consideration, but the ripple effects of devastating storms can play out for months or years.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning consumers that “vehicles flooded by Hurricane Harvey may soon be appearing for sale around the nation.”
The non-profit organization in Des Plaines, Ill. works with insurers to document which cars have been affected. Many cars are sold off for their undamaged parts, but others are likely to find their way to lots in other states.
Though Irma’s path remains uncertain, Florida will remain a large market for used vehicles as the third most populous state — and may even add to a soggy inventory for sale.
One precautionary move is to check the vehicle identification number online, including this database from NICB:
Still, that does not cover all risks.
“Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged,” the crime bureau warned.
Officials suggest having a car checked out by a mechanic before purchase, and watching for trouble signs.
Want some tips to avoid buying a flood-damaged car?
Here’s one: Check for moisture, mildew and grime not just under carpets but also inside the seatbelt retractor.
Another: Check for rust on screws in consoles or places water normally does not reach.
Look for mud or grime in the spare-tire compartment.
See any white powder or pitting on aluminum and alloys? Think twice.