As tempting as used car prices might be after a hurricane like Harvey or Irma, Fortune Magazine is warning consumers, which may include high school students looking for a cheap car, to be on the lookout for signs that a used car comes from hurricane-soaked Houston or Florida.
Up to a million cars may have been damaged in floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in Texas or Hurricane Irma in Florida. Consumers should know how to spot a car that has been damaged in the flooding, despite desperate attempts by owners to conceal the damage.
Carfax estimates that about half the cars that were damaged in Hurricane Harvey will end up back on the used car market. And although used car prices in Houston are normally about 2 to 3 percent below what those cars sell for across the US, on average, prices for used cars went up to about 1.7 percent below the averages after Harvey.
“Residents that live in a flood-damaged area and are looking to replace their vehicle should do their homework and not only use online tools to make sure they’re getting a fair deal from a top-rated dealer, but should also make sure that the car they are buying has not been detrimentally impacted by the recent flood,” the magazine quoted CarGurus.com data analyst Lisa Rosenberg as saying.
Experts say to look for mold or mildew smells, overpowering air freshener smells that could hide the smell of mold, and technology in the car that doesn’t work (as with smartphones, water will damage the GPS in a car, rendering many of the car’s features useless). Evidence of mineral deposits or unusual stains on the car or upholstery can also be a tell-tale sign of flood damage in an automobile.
- Guidelines about flood-damaged cars from the Federal Trade Commission
Even if you don’t live near an area that has suffered a recent hurricane, cars can be bought at auctions and sold hundreds of miles away by disreputable dealers. Be careful and check online databases for more information, using the vehicle identification number (VIN) in the front windshield before buying.