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How to Avoid Buying a Used Hurricane Flood Vehicle

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The U.S. suffered an extraordinary 12 landfalls by named storms in 2020, smashing the previous record of nine in 1916. Six hurricanes made a U.S. landfall, tying 2020 with 1985 and 1886 for most U.S. hurricane landfalls. Every single mile of the mainland U.S. Atlantic coast, from Texas to Maine, was under a watch or warning related to tropical cyclones at some point in 2020.

Thousands of flooded cars are expected to hit the market in addition to over 447,000 on the road in 2020. To protect consumers from unwittingly buying flood-damaged vehicles, CARCO’s CheckThatVin is the most comprehensive vehicle title history database in the industry.

Consumers are at risk of buying flood‐damaged cars that may be passed off as undamaged. Buyer beware! You do not want to unwittingly buy a car that was under water. Ever.

“If a deal looks too good, be careful,” said James Owens, CEO and President of leading pre‐insurance auto inspection company CARCO. “Before buying a vehicle, you should physically inspect it and run a ‘CheckThatVIN’ report, which relies on the most comprehensive online database of vehicles and was created by federal law.”

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB.org) states that “buying a flood vehicle is not illegal, but misrepresenting a flood‐damaged vehicle as one that is not could be a crime exposing the seller to potential criminal charges. More importantly, unknowingly buying a flood‐damaged vehicle may put you and your family in physical and financial danger. A vehicle’s electronic systems are often destroyed from prolonged exposure to water rendering many of its safety features not operable.” www.nicb.org/newsroom/news‐releases

Here are two ways to avoid buying a used flood vehicle:

1. Have the vehicle inspected or inspect the vehicle yourself.

  • Look for water marks behind the rugs in the cabin and trunk.
  • Look for rust in the engine compartment.
  • Check for musty odors in the cabin and trunk.
  • Check the wheel wells for signs of submersion.
  • Check that electrical wires are flexible and not brittle or cracking.
  • Was the vehicle regularly parked in a location that had recent flooding.

2. Run a NMVTIS CheckThatVIN report.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was designed to protect prospective buyers and sellers of used cars and trucks from concealed vehicle histories.

Created by federal law, this system is the only publicly available system in the country that requires all insurance carriers, auto recyclers, junk and salvage yards, and states to report vehicle title history information. NMVTIS data is also required in the state of California to comply with AB1215.

Reports typically include title “Brand” information that may uncover a previously unknown “Salvage” or “Flood” vehicle. This information may not normally be found in a standard vehicle history report.

CheckThatVIN is available at checkthatvin.com.