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Buyer beware: flood damaged cars could hit the market after Hurricane Ida

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - If you’re searching for a used car to buy, you may want to do your homework first.

Heavy flooding from Hurricane Ida damaged thousands of cars that could wind up on the market again.

Since there is already a car shortage, shoppers may be desperate to find the right car for the right price.

Used cars are often cleaned up and then put on the market, ready for sale.

But hidden problems could be lurking inside some of them.

Nearly half a million flood-damaged cars wound up back on the road in 2020, according to CARFAX.

19 Investigates found sellers are supposed to disclose flood damage to possible buyers.

But sometimes titles are reissued in other states, missing that vital information.

And if they had no insurance to begin with, they can’t be tracked.

It’s called “title washing” and it can really cost you. Here are some simple steps you can take before you buy a used car.

How to protect yourself

  • First, go to a reputable dealer.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This will show you any red flags.

You can also buy a more detailed vehicle history report.

  • Then, take the car for a spin.

A test drive can make sure everything is working properly.

  • And lastly, see a trusted mechanic before signing the dotted line.

$50 to $100 for a professional check could save you thousands down the line.

Andy Fiffick is the general manager of Rad Air Complete Car Care.

He showed us the signs to watch out for after Hurricane Harvey.

“If you go and pull the carpeting back, and look down inside, what you would find in a flooded vehicle here, there’d be mud, silt over here in this area,” Fiffick said, pointing to the carpeting on the floor of a car.

“On the backside, see all this matting and insulation, this would all be discolored from muddy water that stained it. There’d be silt or a mark line where the water came up to,” he said, holding up a car door panel.

If your power windows and locks or speakers keep going on and off, these could also be signs your car may be flood-damaged.

You can file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The top three cities with flooded cars last year were Houston, New York City, and Philadelphia, according to CARFAX.

You can check out how Ohio stacks up to other states by looking at their map here.

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