Hurricane Irma, the ninth named storm of 2017, was the largest to hit the Jacksonville area in years. It brought high winds and storm surges to all of the Florida coast, leaving downed trees and many areas flooded. Pictures of houses crushed and scenes of neighborhoods under two feet of water flashed across our TV screens, alerting us that recovery would surely extend into 2018 and beyond.
Although the storm is in our rearview mirror, it’s made a lasting impact on one industry of note: the used car industry. Over 350,000 flooded cars are up for sale across the country, and many of them originated in Florida (and Texas). Some are even still here, hiding in plain sight as “buy as-is” used cars. Thus, shoppers need to be wary of buying used cars from third-party dealers for this very reason.
If you’re searching for an affordable car near Jacksonville, follow these tips to avoid getting in over your head.
How to avoid buying a flood-damaged car
Another consequence of a large weather event like Hurricane Irma is that the car market is suddenly inundated with flood-damaged vehicles that aren’t properly reported. Cox Automotive estimates that both Harvey and Irma flooded up to 1,000,000 vehicles. These cars hold potential risks even if they look fine and work well at first, as some flood damage takes time to manifest.
But there are a few ways you can identify a flooded car if its damage has been hidden.
- Check the title to see if it is branded as a salvaged or flood-damaged vehicle. By law, the DHSMV has to state the car’s current or previous condition on any title; they get this information when the insurance company reports a claim. If the vehicle’s title is in Florida, you can use the DHSMV’s Motor Vehicle Information Check to see if a car is flooded.
- Take a whiff of the car’s interior. If it smells musty, that’s a sure sign of water damage—or just poor owner hygiene.
- If there is peeling body paint, that could be a sign that the vehicle was submerged in water or chemical-water mixtures for a prolonged period.
- Check for signs of mud or waterlines inside the vehicle. The glove compartment, under the dash, and the trunk are common places that may be missed during clean-up.
- Take a look under the car for rust or corrosion. If there is a lot of either, and the car isn’t too old, that’s a red flag.
- Work with a reputable car dealer. Used car dealers must disclose, in writing, any vehicles branded as flooded. Our Honda dealerships always inspect trade-ins and auctioned vehicles before putting them up for sale on our Jacksonville used car lots. When you buy through us, you won’t have to worry about purchasing a flooded car.
What to look for if your car has been flooded
A vehicle submerged in flood waters needs more than just drying out, as standing water can cause all sorts of damage. Look out for these common water-damaged car symptoms before you try to use your vehicle:
- Check the interior of the car for signs of water. Are the carpets wet? The seats? You may need to have them professionally cleaned or even replaced. Just air-drying them will not take care of the mold and mildew smell.
- Check your oil and transmission dipsticks. If the fluid looks milky, water has gotten inside. Do not drive your vehicle if this is the case. Have it towed to a trusted mechanic or one of our Honda service centers near Lake City, FL. We have professional technicians who can deal with flood-damaged car problems, including the replacement of the engine and its components.
- If your filters are wet, have them replaced when you change your oil. This should be a requirement regardless of water damage.
- Look under your vehicle to see if there is any caked-on mud or grass, and check for rust. Be sure to have it cleaned off right away to prevent further rust from forming.
- Have the brakes checked thoroughly, not just on a test drive. Our Honda repair shops offer professional brake inspections near Jacksonville, so you can be sure your car isn’t a risk to drive.
- Check your lights. If they contain water, drain them and replace the bulbs, making sure no electrical damage has occurred.
- If you hear any abnormal sounds coming from your vehicle, have a mechanic check it out. We provide thorough multi-point inspections to locate those odd noises.
- Check out the suspension to see if the joints need lubricating.
Most importantly, if your vehicle has been flooded, make a claim! When you go to sell that vehicle, you may be found to be making a fraudulent sale. Yikes.
Does your insurance cover flood damage?
You’re most likely covered for flood damage if you have comprehensive auto insurance. In Florida, if the cost to repair your car is more than 80% of the value of the car, it’s considered totaled. Here are the steps you need to take to file a flood-damaged vehicle claim:
- Contact your insurance company right away. You’ll treat this just like any other claim. If the car damage came from a large-scale event like Irma, expect things to move a little slower. It’s likely the insurance companies will be busy with hundreds if not thousands of claims just like yours.
- Take as many pictures of the damage as you can. Since auto water damage can worsen over time, you’ll want to start cleaning your car as soon as possible. This means, in order to capture the worst of the damage, you’ll need to record it yourself before taking a scrub brush to its carpet.
- Begin looking for a replacement car as you wait for your claim. Depending on the age of your flooded vehicle, your pay-out may allow you to buy a new Honda or quality used car. View our selection of both new Honda models and pre-owned vehicles to find a good deal.
Hurricane Irma was no joke, and neither is the thought of choosing the wrong car. Allow our Jacksonville car dealerships to steer you in the right non-flooded direction. Find your nearest First Coast Honda Dealers location to browse our current new Honda models and other used cars for sale.