It’s hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina did its devastation over twelve years ago. That hurricane resulted in a tragic loss of lives, homes, businesses and automobiles. I wonder how many flood damaged vehicles were actually re-sold in other states. Fast-forward backwards to 2010, North Texas, car shopping with my daughter. We were looking for a nice, reasonably priced (yet cool-looking) first car for her to drive. Not only could I not afford to buy her a brand new car, I certainly couldn’t afford the insurance on a new car. I was also aware that a new car starts losing value from the time you drive it off the lot. And new drivers are notorious for having a few fender benders the first year (for some, even the first week) of driving.
We’d narrowed it down to a specific make and model. And we began to look online for cars that matched our preference. We found one in a used car dealership on the other side of the metroplex. When we arrived, we were allowed to take it for a test drive. It looked pretty nice for a 5+ year old car. And it seemed to drive okay. The odd thing was, the metal hardware on the seat belts was rusty. It was a convertible, so perhaps the prior owner(s) had left the top down in the rain. On a hunch, I looked in the glove compartment for paperwork and found that the prior owner was from New Orleans, Louisiana. So this car was likely caught up in the flooding from Hurricane Katrina.
Now, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning the nation’s consumers that vehicles flooded by Hurricane Harvey may soon be appearing for sale around the nation. After a disaster, NICB works with its member companies, law enforcement and auto auction companies to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed and to process them for sale. All of the cars, deemed to be a total loss, will be re-titled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts’ companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also entered into the NICB’s VINCheck® and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database. NICB’s VINCheck allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in the program. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheck is a free public service available at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.
Keeping damaged cars out of the hands of unsuspecting buyers is a major focus of the industry. 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. NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Harvey-damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or an unscrupulous dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.
Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash. Good to know that the NICB is watching our back.
Until next week…
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
Flood Damaged Vehicles – Comedy Defensive Driving