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How to avoid buying a used 'flood car' after Hurricane Ian

Flood cars are a big problem here in our area. Carfax estimates Washington, D.C. has seen a 300% increase in flood cars since 2021.

WASHINGTON — The cleanup continues from Hurricane Ian and that includes tens of thousands of cars, trucks and SUVs damaged in flood waters. Industry experts are warning buyers in this competitive used car market to make sure one of those flood cars doesn't end up in their driveway.

Flood cars can cost thousands in repairs down the road, when the long-term damage of salt water erodes the engine and other parts.

"Carfax estimates nationwide that the number [of flood damaged cars on the road] is about 400,000 vehicles, and that was before Hurricane Ian, so we know that number is only likely to go up," said Emilie Voss with Carfax.

Flood cars are a big problem here in our area. Carfax estimates Washington, D.C. has seen a 300% increase in flood cars since 2021 and has the second-most flood damaged vehicles of any state in the country. The entire metro area ranks 18th in the nation, according to Carfax, with an estimated 4,600 vehicles on the road with a waterlogged history.

Here are some tips to help consumers avoid buying a flood damaged vehicle.

  1. Look up a vehicle’s history by running the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) through a free database, such as the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck. Carfax also offers a free flood check of the car’s VIN.
  2. Inspect the car for clues such as sand under the floor mats, moisture in the headlights or signs of discoloration or residue around metal screws or bolts. When an unscrupulous seller cleans a car thoroughly, flood damage may not be obvious.
  3. Have the vehicle professionally inspected by a mechanic you trust. (You should do this with any used vehicle you’re ever considering buying.)

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