The footage of the floods in Louisiana are surreal, the loss of life has been tragic and the damage to personal property will rack into the billions. But what happens to the tens of thousands of cars under water? Here’s what to look out for if you’re finding a deal that sounds too good to be true.
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) provides information to consumers about car that have been declared a total loss that are eventually resold in “good” condition.
The NICB assists law enforcement agencies, insurance agencies and car rental specialists to identify and catalog water-damaged vehicles, so that they’re disposed of properly and not resold to unsuspecting customers.
When cars are damaged in a flood, insurance companies make a determination whether a car can be repaired or whether it needs to be completely salvaged. Total loss vehicles eventually make their way to automotive auctions like Copart, which auctions salvaged vehicles to recyclers in the region. Copart runs three auction sites in South Carolina alone, and as the days pass, cars will begin arriving for auction.
The NICB, law enforcement, and companies like Copart identify and process these vehicles at they arrive, ensuring that they’re retitled through the state Department of Motor Vehicles with a new, clearly identified SALVAGE title that shows the vehicle was flood damaged. Ostensibly, these cars then move down to recyclers, which will disassemble the cars and sell them for their salvageable parts.
There are many ways you can protect yourself from buying a flood car, though. The first place to start is at BestRide.com’s inventory page. Along with all the pertinent information on a particular vehicle, there’s also a “Show Me The CarFax” button at the bottom of the page, which directly links you to the free CarFax report on that car.
The CarFax report will clearly show whether or not the car has ever had a reportable accident, or if it’s ever been salvaged.
You can also use the NICB’s VINcheck database to find out if the vehicle has ever been salvaged in its history, assuming the VIN hasn’t been changed. But it’s harder and harder to change a VIN on a car today. The 17-digit VIN on all cars since 1969 is located on a plate visible through the windshield, but you can also find the VIN in many other locations on the car, including the information placard in the door jamb, in the trunk under the spare tire, or even stamped into the firewall.
The NICB also has brochures and checklists that can help identify flooded or otherwise salvaged cars.