Ten days after Sandy made landfall, the car insurance claims have begun to slow down. The current number of cars damaged by Sandy is only a quarter of modest estimates at 31,000 cars. That number reflects all the cars claimed regardless of the actual severity. Some are totaled and some will be repaired and returned to their owners. Another 14,000 new cars sitting on docks waiting for a sales lot were damaged as well.
Granted, the clean-up from Sandy is still in early stages. As more car owners dig out from under tree branches and sand, there will be more insurance claims filed for flood damaged cars. It is still unlikely for the flooded cars to cause a problem in the used car market for a variety of reasons.
For example, the new cars sitting in New York’s harbors will most likely never be brought into the marketplace. Car manufacturers don’t want to tarnish their brand’s reputation by allowing sub-standard cars to be sold. Most of the flooded cars that are resold after repairs will be re-titled as a “flood damaged vehicle” so the consumer is well aware of the chance of the car having problems.
There are many problems that could arise after a car is flooded. The waters aren’t clean tap water, but a mix of raw sewage, gutter water and silt. Even if a car looks dried out after a flood, there could be bacteria and mold developing somewhere in the interior. The wiring and transmission may never run the same after bits of dirt and sand work into the tiny crevices of the mechanics.
It is still possible that some of the flooded cars will slip through the cracks of regulation from insurance companies. When buying a used car, take a few simple steps to make sure you aren’t getting damaged goods. Start by running the vehicle identification number through a vehicle history service to see if there are any records of accidents or damage. Then take it to a mechanic who can identify the signs of flooding or other problems. You can check yourself for signs of flooding by giving the interior and trunk a sniff test. A musty, moldy smell is a red flag.