If the Hurricane Ida experience of 2021 is any lesson, car buyers should be wary of hurricane-damaged vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Ida left more than 200,000 ruined vehicles in its wake, so it stands to reason that Ian will further weaken an already-stressed market.
The prospect of hundreds of thousands of people being forced to buy new vehicles, or replace components already in short supply, is a sobering one. It’s important for the car-buying public to proceed carefully because vehicles that should have been written off as total losses may have been repaired and put back up for sale as used cars. That could mean a serious financial hit for scores of buyers.
According to Carfax, there are approximately 400,000 vehicles currently in use that sustained prior flood damage; Hurricane Ian will surely increase that number over the coming months and years. It’s important to be aware that a certain number of unscrupulous dealers and vehicle owners will attempt to sell these vehicles without divulging their flood damage.
Water damage can affect a vehicle in many ways. For example, you could experience problems with a compromised electrical system or computer components, which are easily damaged or ruined by water. Other telltale signs include premature rust damage and wiring that’s turned stiff and become cracked.
Unwittingly purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle–one that’s been partly, or completely, submerged for any length of time –means inheriting much more than inheriting the previous owner’s problems.
It means taking on a lost cause that can severely damage your financial situation and ruin your credit standing.
What Can You Do?
It’s a difficult problem to avoid, one that requires diligence and a willingness to do some research. If you’re planning on buying a used vehicle now or in the near future, the likelihood that you may end up with a car damaged by Hurricane Ianisconsiderable. It’s essential to look closely for signs of water damage, such as water stains, a musty or mildew smell, or pooled water in hidden places. It’s also worthwhile to have a mechanic inspect any vehicle you intend to buy.
Research, recommended anytime you’re in the market for a used vehicle, is another very good way to avoid getting stuck. There are many data services that can make you aware of problems with a prospective vehicle, including:
•Car Fax Flood Check (free)
•Auto Check (free VIN check)
•National Insurance Crime Bureau (free VIN check)
•Experian’s Auto Check
It’s important to remember that these services, though useful, aren’t perfect because sellers, especially private sellers, can often find ways around them. In any event, if there’s sufficient reason to suspect unethical behavior by a seller, you’re far better off walking away from it.
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