ATLANTA — Cars damaged by flooding in Hurricane Ian could soon be for sale at used car lots in metro Atlanta.
Carfax estimates that as many as 358,000 vehicles were potentially damaged by Hurricane Ian’s floodwaters.
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Many of those cars end up for sale hundreds of miles away, where people are not on the lookout for, or expecting, a flood-damaged vehicle.
“They buy them from the salvage auction, clean them up, sometimes clean the title too, title wash them and then resell them to places where maybe a seller isn’t thinking about it,” said Emilie Voss from Carfax.
Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard says even if those cars look pristine on the outside, they likely have mechanical and safety problems lurking.
“Those vehicles will cause you headaches from the minute you buy them to the minute you dump them,” Howard said.
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Even before Ian, an estimated 400,000 vehicles on the road nationwide already have a waterlogged history. About 6,400 of those flood-damaged vehicles are estimated to be here in Georgia.
Carfax says it doesn’t take much for someone to clean them up and disguise the problems.
“From the inside out these cars are rotting,” Voss said.
For three years now, Channel 2 Investigates has been reporting that many troubled cars end up with clean titles from the state of Texas.
In 2020, Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray told the story of one Toyota 4Runner that has changed hands at least seven times in five years in five states.
The whole time it had a critical safety defect that customers never knew about: It is missing side-curtain airbags.
Gray also reported on a Tesla Model 3 with more than $34,000 in damage that was repaired, but this was not indicated on the car’s accident history.
Both cars were titled in Texas, then sold elsewhere.
Texas law has a 100% “total-loss threshold.”
Translation: Unless the repair cost is more than what the car is worth, the title remains original and conceals the history of cars that were involved in serious accidents.
And in Georgia, there is no lemon law for used vehicles.
“You buy a used vehicle as is. Somebody can lie to you, they can tell you whatever and if you buy trouble you own trouble,” Howard said.
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To protect yourself, you can run any car through the Carfax free flood check.
But Howard says that’s not enough.
You should also get an independent mechanic to take a look.
“Now that will only show you if it’s been through an insurance claim. So you still need to have a used vehicle checked out by a mechanic of your choosing. Because so many of these flood cars are going to be in the market,” Howard said.
Auto fraud experts say you can also research a car’s history by checking the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System — or NMVTIS — report.
For a small fee, it will list major accidents that might not make it onto a Carfax report.
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