Chicago Illinois Insurance: Cars and Previous Flood Damage

Why it is Important to Make Sure a Car Does Not Have Previous Flood Damage

Following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, people across the country saw images of cars sitting in flood waters on their televisions. When people witness such disasters, one of the last things they may be thinking about is where these cars go after the flood waters recede. Some hurricanes in history have left over 100,000 cars totaled in just the span of a few days. In many cases, these vehicles are totaled by insurance companies and then sold at auction. Law-abiding auction attendees usually buy the vehicles to use for spare parts, but there are some people who buy damaged vehicles to resell in a dishonest manner.

Title Washing
Identifying a car that has been damaged by flood waters can be difficult in most cases. The people who sell these vehicles usually pose as small-time dealers. Reputable dealers do not purchase these vehicles, so buyers are usually safe when purchasing from such a company. Reputable dealers will do everything in their power to avoid selling a vehicle with flood damage. Dishonest people may sell these cars, but the vehicles have been cleaned up to hide any visible signs of flood damage. In order to understand how these vehicles make it onto lots or into newspaper ads, it is important to understand the process of title washing.

When a person's vehicle is totaled due to flood damage, he or she files an insurance claim. The individual is compensated, and the vehicle is then taken by the insurance company to be sold at auction. However, insurance companies want to make sure people who buy these cars know they were flooded, so they assign a flood damage brand to the title. Individuals or companies buying these vehicles at auction are supposed to use them as parts or at least be honest with future buyers about existing flood damage. Some individuals who buy these vehicles may move them to several different states, which creates new titles each time. Some states may not have the same flood brand requirements, so these vehicles may end up with titles that indicate there is nothing wrong with them. In order to help expose people who engage in such dishonest practices, insurers encourage consumers to educate themselves about flood damage and how to identify vehicles that may have washed titles.

Identifying Cars With Flood Damage
Identifying a car that has been damaged by flood waters will not be easy with a typical inspection. However, people who are concerned may use the following tips to spot cars that may have serious damages:

- Pull up a corner of the vehicle's interior carpet to see if there is mold or a bad smell underneath. Vehicle carpet has plastic on the back, so there should not be any moisture under it from a recent cleaning.

- Look at the bolts holding the seats down. If they appear to have been loosened recently or are rusty, this could be a sign of flood damage.

- Check the vehicle's glove box and trunk for silt residue or a waterline. This could indicate recent flood damage.

- Look in the headlights and turn signal lights. Silt and mud may collect under these, and both types of lights are expensive to replace.

- Check the suspension and chassis for signs of corrosion. There is usually some wear, but any wear on chassis or suspension parts should be appropriate for the vehicle's condition and age.

If water collects inside a vehicle, it will promote mold growth, which can be a health hazard. When water and silt collect in a transmission, it could break down within a few months. These are just two of the problems that can occur from flood damage. Insurers want consumers to buy vehicles that do not have flood damage, so they encourage everyone to purchase a history report for any considered vehicle. They also suggest that people check the vehicle's VIN number with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which is a database that collects information about flood branded, junked and salvaged vehicles. To learn more about this database or how to be protected from buying a car with flood damage, discuss this topic with an agent from Zeiler Insurance.

-Lucas R. Zeiler

(708) 597-5900

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