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Flood-Damaged Cars Going to Used Car Lots

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

October 5, 2005

In addition to ruining homes and businesses, Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters also damaged thousands of cars. If you're not cautious, one of these vehicles could end up in your driveway.

Anyone looking to buy a used car might want to do some extra research.

Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, thousands of water-damaged vehicles will be flooding the used car market.

"It's something common," said Car Shop Foreman Peter Hemingway. "It doesn't surprise me a bit. They have to go somewhere."

That somewhere could be local residents' driveways if they are not careful.

Water damaged cars often have costly electrical problems as well as other setbacks, all things that with a close look, can be caught before making the purchase.

"If you pull door panels off, or pull carpets back to see, in carpets you'll have sand. That's the biggest thing on flood-damaged cars, whether it's fresh water or salt water [damage], you're going to find sand," explained Hemingway.

Auto Superstore Manager Michael Phillips agrees with Hemingway. "You're going to be able to see water lines, just like you would in a house if a house has been flooded. There will be water lines in the car, there will be dirt and mud and things like that behind the odometers," he said.

In addition to checking it out yourself, experts recommend taking it to an experienced mechanic.

"It's just cheap assurance to spend $70 to $100 to have somebody check a car that could have thousands of dollars worth of damage," said Hemingway.

"I would say make sure you deal with a reputable dealer and make sure you ask for a Carfax on the vehicle. The Carfax is going to generally show you any information, the same thing we'd look for on a title, whether the vehicle has been branded a 'salvage' or a 'flood-damaged' vehicle," explained Phillips.

Websites like carfax.com can be quite helpful when buying a used vehicle.

All one has to do is punch in the VIN number and that vehicle's history will pop up.

"It's up to the individual if they want to take that chance or not," concluded Hemingway.

Researching a car's history can be time consuming, but experts believe it's time well spent.


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