“Hurricane Cars” are Likely to Flood the Used Car Market


With still two months left in the hurricane season, the United States has already been hit with two major category 4 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. These two storms resulted in intense storm surge and flooding. According to Carfax, it is estimated that 500,000 cars sustained flood damage from Hurricane Harvey. Carfax estimates that half of these cars will end up being sold in the used car market, and often are shipped to distant locations where consumers may be less aware of the potential of purchasing a flood damaged vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, many of these vehicles appear in the market with clean titles and are disguised as used vehicles rather than salvage vehicles. Flood damage is easily concealed and can be difficult to spot so it is important to be cognizant of this when shopping for a used car.

Some warning signs of flood damaged vehicles include the following:

  • Debris and dirt under the seats, in the doors or glovebox, under the hood, in the truck and in the wheels
  • Musty odors that may be covered up by a strong scent of air freshener
  • Upholstery that does not match
  • Rust and corrosion in unexpected places such as under the seats
  • Evidence that seat screws that have been removed
  • Water lines on the head and rear lights and behind the engine
  • Evidence that rubber drain plugs have been removed

In addition to physically inspecting the car for any flood damage, it is important that the car be taken for a test drive to discern if there is any mechanical or technological damage to the vehicle. Even with these initial inspections, there are long term effects of a car being submerged in water that may take months or years to appear as a result of corrosion and oxidation. The damage sustained by “hurricane cars” can lead to vehicle malfunction and make operation of these cars dangerous for drivers and passengers.

For additional resources and to find out if a particular vehicle has sustained flood damage visit https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/flooded-cars.