Here's what you should look out for to avoid another disaster.
With the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage still disrupting auto production, a low supply of new cars has caused used car prices to reach a record high in America. As a result, sticker prices for popular models in the US like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD are selling for thousands of dollars above sticker price.
Now, there are fears that water-damaged cars destroyed by Storm Ida could flood the US car market. Speaking with CNBC, Carfax spokesman Chris Basso estimates around 378,000 flood-damaged autos were already on the roads before Storm Ida made landfall in Southeast Louisiana last month. "If history holds true, we're looking at several thousand more [flooded] vehicles, and a decent percentage of them will make it back into the market," said Basso.
Unfortunately, some people will take advantage of the huge demand for used cars right now and try to scam desperate people into buying a flood-damaged car. While a flood-damaged car may look undamaged on the outside, flood water can cause serious damage to a car's electronics, lubricants and mechanical systems.
When buying a used car, it's always important to check its vehicle history report. Cars ruined by flood water are declared as totaled by insurance companies and given a flood damage title before being sold at salvage auctions. But some owners don't file an insurance claim if they don't have comprehensive insurance that covers flood damage.
These owners may then try to clean the totaled car and sell it to an unsuspecting consumer without disclosing the flood damage. Dealers with less strict title laws may also try to sell flood-damaged cars, so it's more important than ever to thoroughly inspect a used car you're thinking of buying.
According to Carfax, some of the signs that a car has been damaged by floodwater to look out for include a strong-smelling odor in the interior, loose upholstery or carpeting, and damp carpets. Also look out for rust gathering around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches, as well as mud or silt in the glove compartment and under the seats. There could also be brittle wires under the dashboard and fogging or moisture beads in exterior and interior lights Before buying, it's important to test drive the car and have it thorouhgly inspected by a mechanic.