Pennsylvania Warns About Flood-Damaged Vehicles After Hurricane Florence

October 3, 2018

With automotive officials estimating that as many as 40,000 vehicles were damaged by flooding from Hurricane Florence, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) are warning consumers to be on the lookout for flood-damaged cars being sold as undamaged new or used vehicles.

“Though not all states were directly affected by Hurricane Florence, flood-damaged cars could potentially end up in the market across the country,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards in a Pennsylvania Insurance Department press release. “It’s important that consumers are aware of how to spot a vehicle that may be flood-damaged.”

The release outlined things to check for that may indicate a vehicle has flood damage, such as:

  • Water stains, mold, mud or sand under the carpets, seats, floor mats, inside roof cloth and under the dashboard.
  • Rusty metal inside the car. The inside of a car does not usually rust.
  • Musty odors in the trunk and in the passenger compartment, especially when running the air conditioning or heat.
  • Fog or moisture inside interior and exterior lights and excessive fogging of windows and condensation on windows.
  • Mud or grit in the spare tire compartment and under the hood. When checking under the hood, it is important to look under wires, boxes and in hidden areas.
  • Oxidation under the hood. Oxidation on metal can look like white powder, or it could be small holes called pitting.
  • Brittle wires under the dashboard, speakers and hood.

A checklist of items that may indicate a vehicle is flood-damaged is available on the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website.

Flood-impacted vehicles that have been issued a certificate of salvage are required to undergo an enhanced vehicle safety inspection prior to being issued a title in Pennsylvania. Upon successful completion of the enhanced inspection, a Pennsylvania title will be issued with a Flood or Reconstructed Flood brand, the release stated.

“Consumers buying a vehicle with a salvage certificate or flood title should be aware of possible implications if they file an insurance claim on the vehicle,” said Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman in the release. “Even if the vehicle is new, if a claim is later filed, the insurance company will research the vehicle history and see the prior claim for flood damage. If the vehicle is deemed to be a total loss, the insurer will likely pay out significantly less than would be paid for a vehicle that did not have flood damage.”

Insurers also may not be willing to provide comprehensive and collision coverage on flood-damaged vehicles because the insurer can’t be sure of the vehicle’s value or how complete any repairs are, Altman added. Getting a loan for a vehicle without full comprehensive and collision coverage is nearly impossible, so consumers would likely have to pay cash for the vehicle, she explained.

Consumers can use the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck database, to see if the vehicle had a claim for flood or other damage filed.

Consumers can also check reference services, such as the National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System (NMVTIS). NMVTIS is overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice and is designed to protect customers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to help keep stolen vehicles from being resold. NMVTIS is the only publicly available system in the country that requires all insurance carriers, auto recyclers, junk and salvage yards, and states to report vehicle history information, according to the release.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

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