by Sumaya Amer
Illinois Auto Insurance Specialist in Chicago

Flood is a common occurrence in the United States, from Northeast to Southeast, hurricane and river floods are common. With each flood comes enormous property destruction, including damage to automobiles. Water damage may not be as visible as collision damages, although it can cause more serious damage to the electrical system of the vehicle and its engine.

Some analysts reported that in wake of Hurricane Irene some 11,789 flood vehicle-related claims were made in the month of August 2011 alone, about 35% of those were in State of New Jersey.  Earlier in May 2011 thousands of vehicles were flooded and declared total loss by insurance companies in the Mississippi River flooding that hit hard several communities, especially Louisiana.

Most of these vehicles will hit the market soon, be sold by individuals and dealers. Sellers of flood damaged vehicles normally choose areas where flood is not common, such as Chicago Illinois. It is not uncommon to find individuals and dealers attempting to sell flood damaged vehicles in Chicago Illinois. There is nothing illegal about it as long as the seller(s) make that disclosure regarding the flood vehicle to the buyer(s). Actually a flood vehicle can be an excellent buy for a newer driver, project car, or just another nice car for good price. However, selling a flood vehicle without making this disclosure to the potential buyers.

Effect of Flood Vehicles on Auto Insurance Claims


When you insurance an auto, the company will pay you the Actual Cash Value of the vehicle in the event of total loss. If the company estimates the value of repair to be 75% to 80% of the Actual Cash Value or higher, then they will declare the vehicle total loss. Flood vehicles have significantly lower ACV, meaning that in the event of total loss your company may pay you only a very small fraction. Also, some companies may not offer physical damage (comprehensive and collission) to previously totaled (salvaged) vehicles, including flood vehicles.

How to Spot A Flood Vehicle

There are many things you can do to check if the vehicle you are buying is a flood vehicle. These include:

1. Avoid buying from unverifiable strangers. If you are buying from used car dealers choose one with good reputation.
2. Check the interior of the vehicles. Signs like recently shampooed carpet, fading upholstery, rust in areas where water cannot be in (console area), mud in trunk and engine area, seatbelt retractor for moisture or mildew,  and door speakers for any damage.
3. Ask questions about if the vehicle was involved in accident or flood. Carfax should help determine that. Inspect the car before you buy it.
4. Other sources of information that you may get about vehicles include the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (http://www.vehiclehistory.gov/nmvtis_vehiclehistory.html) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau  (https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck)
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