Vehicles damaged in Harvey floods could end up on used car lots


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Hurricane Harvey’s wrath rained down on hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Now, there’s a threat of flood-damaged vehicles flooding onto used car lots.

“They could very easily show up on the used car market,” said John Paul, who’s known as AAA’s “Car Doctor.”

“Even if the car has been cleaned up and it seems to run fine, a month from now, a year from now that corrosion that started to build up inside, some of the wiring harnesses, and some of those connections to all the computer systems in the car can come back to haunt you,” Paul said.

It’s perfectly legal to sell a flood-damaged vehicle, as long as the damage is disclosed on the title. But Paul says consumers often have no idea they’re buying a car that was underwater because there is no disclosure.

“One of them is a car doesn’t have insurance at all,” Paul explained. “The car is ruined, somebody comes to [the owner], offers to buy it. That’s one of the more difficult ones because it’s essentially a clean title.”

“The second one are cars that were branded salvage, so they were branded as a total loss,” Paul added. “Sometimes what happens is they end up through states where the title is essentially washed.”

According to Cox Automotive, up to 500,000 vehicles could be totaled as a result of Hurricane Harvey, so you have to do some research to protect your next used car purchase.

“Would I buy a car that came out of Houston, Texas? Not during this time frame. It would probably be a mistake,” Paul said.

After you’ve checked the title, evaluate the car carefully with a trusted, independent mechanic.

“Use all your senses when you go to see the car,” Paul said. “Look everywhere. Look in every nook and cranny. Look for sand, silt, things that don’t belong in a certain place.”

You should also check for a musty odor, a strong air freshener smell, new carpeting or upholstery, and fog or moisture beads in interior and exterior lights.

Susan Campbell ( is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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