Flood damaged vehicles in Louisiana are going to be an even bigger problem than expected.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau now estimates as many as 100,000 cars and trucks were soaked in last month’s historic flooding. That’s a much higher number than first estimated. And keep in mind, the count only includes insured vehicles, not ones that aren’t insured because they are older.
Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana rolled out measures to protect consumers from purchasing flood damaged vehicles, the NICB added in its press release. Once insurers determine a vehicle is damaged, it’s towed to an auction and a new title is issued noting its status. If the vehicle is beyond repair, it may get a “Certificate of Destruction”. That means the vehicle has to be crushed or sold to a company that will dismantle the vehicle for parts and destroy what remains.
In terms of the recent flooding, Louisiana’s division of motor vehicles is warning consumers that “it’s buyer beware”. It’s urging people to do their homework before buying used cars that could have recent flood damage. About half of all vehicles damaged by flooding eventually return to market, according to Carfax.
Follow these tips when it comes to doing your homework on potentially flood damaged used cars:
- Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard, and in the wheel well where the spare is stored. Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights.
- Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that someone’s trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
- Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. You can check NICB’s free VINCheck SM database and the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicle’s site. There are also reliable services that charge a small fee for history reports.
- Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.
New Car Dealerships Hit Hard, Too
Meanwhile, the flooding also hit new car dealerships very hard as well. It initially closed or disrupted 60 to 80 dealerships. A handful of them lost their entire inventory of new and used vehicles.
At least 1,500 families with household members working at dealerships were among the 100,000-plus families across the Baton Rouge area impacted by the floods. The Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas were among the hardest hit.
The National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation Emergency Relief Fund is stepping in to provide some help. It’s distributing checks of up to $1,500 directly to affected employees. The National Automobile Dealers Association aims to raise $2 million more from members for the fund. It’s likely to be the second-biggest disaster relief effort staged by the fund after Hurricane Katrina.
More than 100,000 people have filed for federal aid. The flooding, which killed 13 people, damaged more than 60,000 homes.