The floods in Texas caused an incredible amount of damage to all kinds of property. The recovery and clean-up is going to take time, and so will accounting for all the vehicles that were damaged by the rising waters. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) estimates that as many as 10,000 vehicles were damaged, and that only includes those that were insured. What happens to all those cars?
The process starts with insurance companies who make the determination of whether or not a car can be salvaged. Vehicles declared a total loss will find their way to lots like those owned by Copart, a company who manages vehicles damaged in catastrophes. Their facility in Houston covers 200 acres and has already received about 2,500 totaled vehicles.
It’s a joint effort between the NICB, law enforcement, and companies like Copart to identify and process all of these vehicles. Most importantly, they’re all retitled through the DMV with a new title that shows the vehicle was flood damaged. This ensures none of these vehicles are resold to you. Instead, they are sold to parts companies who can re-sell any parts that are salvageable.
The process works, but only if everyone follows the rules. There are many cars that are uninsured and those aren’t tracked. They can easily end up in the hands of unsuspecting buyers with no idea that their used vehicle was seriously damaged in a flood and may not be safe. Even a properly disposed of car could end up in the hands of a disreputable seller who could clean it up, switch the VIN, and resell it as though it was never damaged.
There are a few ways that buyers can check to be sure that the car they’re purchasing wasn’t damaged. A little common sense goes a long way to steering clear of flood-damaged cars. The weeks and months after a major catastrophe should have buyers on guard for deals that seem a little too good to be true on a used car. They can also search the NICB’s VINcheck database to see if the car they’re about to purchase has been recorded as salvage or if it’s listed as stolen, assuming the VIN hasn’t been changed to hide that history.
This leaves things very much in the hands of the buyer. How can you tell if a car that looks and drives fine has been damaged in a flood or other catastrophe? The NICB has brochures and checklists that can help identify these cars so you avoid getting scammed. Your best bet, if you have any doubts at all, is to simply walk away rather than risk buying a car that could prove dangerous once you’re on the road.