Trust me on this one, you don’t want to accidentally purchase a flood-damaged car. To this day, it’s still one of my biggest regrets. If you come across a car for sale with a price too good to be true, it probably is.
CT Post reports that Hurricane Harvey and Irma flooded an estimated 500,000 to 1 million cars. Which means, some opportunistic owners may try to take advantage of trusting people. Like me.
So, let’s go back to 2012. A year prior, Hurricane Irene devastated Connecticut by flooding streets, homes, and also cars. However, I was in the market for a car since I needed transportation to my internship.
At the time, I lived in Boston and my internship happened to be in a location where it’d take over an hour to get to by pubic transportation, but 25 minutes using a car. Besides, I was a Masters’ student who was about to graduate into a fresh new job market. So, it made sense to purchase a vehicle.
I came across a listing for an adorable red 2002-2003 Saab-9-3 that had relatively low mileage. The dealership priced it fairly, so I checked it out. It wasn’t a major dealership, just a small independently owned one.
The CarFax report stated the vehicle’s only damage came when it backed into something. So, otherwise it had a clean bill of health.
So, I shook hands with the dealership and went on my way. And I named my car Ladybug. Because I’m original.
Anyways, Ladybug worked like a dream during my internship since I only drove her short distances about three to four times a week. It wasn’t until she had to drive longer distances did I notice a problem. And she went downhill RAPIDLY.
First, her A/C went. Then the ignition. Then the coil pack. And then this and the other thing. And since I just bough the car, I kept dumping money into Ladybug to keep her going.
But, ultimately, her motor went while driving down I-84 in Tolland. All I remember is losing acceleration and the car shaking. And the noises.
I happened to be close enough to an exit ramp, so I coaxed her off the highway and into parking lot. Cursing and crying all the way. Honestly, it’s one of my scariest memories since I fully believed the car was about to blow.
So, Ladybug was totaled and I was out of a car again. And the garage that eventually became Ladybug’s final resting place told me that she most likely was flood-damaged.
When I tried to confront the dealership, they pinned the blame on the owner for failing to report the damage. All they had, on paper, was the minor fender bender.
So, I was out thousands of dollars and it was all because I thought I found a deal too good to pass up.
And, that’s my Saab story *badum-TSH*
Anyways, with those up to 1 million cars in the south, it’s only a matter of time before they it the market. That’s why Connecticut’s Better Business Bureau says buyer beware.
Flood damaged cars typically cost more to repair than their actual selling price. So, that’s why some owners hit the auctions or classified ads. They want to make a little money off their misfortune.
However, some owners will lie about the underlying damage of the car to maximize their profit. Sometimes, they even go as far to make tiny cosmetic repairs to the car so it looks more desirable. Therefore, tricking the potential buyer into thinking nothing’s wrong with it.
Senator Richard Blumenthal explained why car buyers need to take precautions against flood-damaged vehicles:
“They can be superficially cleaned up to look just like new, but there is no way to halt the salt and rust from slowly corroding wires, sensors, and other vital components, or prevent the inevitable total failure of the vehicle. Even worse, buyers of flood-damaged vehicles often have no clue about their car’s history until their vehicle stalls in the middle of the road or breaks down on the freeway. There is no question that flooded vehicles are unsafe – endangering the lives and safety of drivers, passengers, and everyone with whom they share the road.”
CarFax says over 200,000 flood damaged cars currently drive the roads. But, that number will go up as Harvey and Irma vehicles hit the market to unsuspecting buyers.
So, take a lesson from me who thought she did everything right.
I went to the dealership, inspected the car, took it for a drive, and looked up its history. But, it wasn’t enough.
I could have taken it to a mechanic for cleaning, but I didn’t since the car seemed in ship-shape. But, a mechanic would have noticed the sludge in the motor and the corroded wires right away.
Also, I did check the legitimacy of the dealership, but that doesn’t mean fake ones pop up once in awhile. So, you can check out all dealerships on bbb.org to make sure they are who they say they are.
You can further protect yourself by checking under the carpets and popping the hood to look at the spark plugs and wiring, too.
But, most importantly of all, be sure you see the vehicle before you buy it. Sometimes you can tell if it’s flood-damaged right away.
So, keep this all in mind when you start searching for a new used car. Because it might just save you a lot of money. And a future Saab story.