Private vehicle owners, auto dealers and car auction managers now face the dilemma of salvaging or restoring flood-damaged vehicles after Hurricane Sandy. AAA warns car buyers that flood-damaged vehicles can be shipped anywhere for resale, and may show up for sale as early as one week after a devastating storm throughout the U.S. These vehicles can continue to appear in the marketplace for up to a year after a major flood. Due to the short time period between the water damage and being sold, often these vehicles are not identified as flood-damaged in national databases.
“In addition to the obvious damage done to upholstery and carpeting, flood water is a corrosive and abrasive mixture of water and dirt that forces its way into every seam and crevice of an automobile,” said John Milbrath, AAA Washington’s vice president of Member Services. “Most vulnerable are the engine, transmission and other components of the drive train. Unless these vital parts are completely restored, contaminants from the flood water will cause premature wear and shorten the life of the vehicle.”
Used-car buyers should be aware that vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy may be put up for sale in the near future. AAA recommends that used-car buyers always have a potential used-car purchase inspected by a qualified automotive technician and check its title history to help determine whether it sustained flood damage among other problems.
How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Vehicle
- Engage your sense of smell to detect any damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.
- Are the windows fogged up? Has the carpet or upholstery been replaced or recently shampooed? Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
- Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
- Look under the vehicle for corrosion. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states.
- Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.
- Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.
- Obtain a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. This report can potentially reveal if the vehicle has been involved in a flood, major accident, fire, or uncover odometer fraud.
- Always have the vehicle inspected by a quality repair facility prior to purchasing. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities are located across the United States. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair.
To find a qualified automotive technician able to perform an inspection, visit AAA.com and click on “Automotive” for a list of AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. Each of these auto repair shops has passed AAA’s rigorous standards of excellence for customer service, certifications, equipment, guarantee, written estimate and more.
AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its 1,045,000 members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at AAA.com, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.