About half of the cars that were flooded during Tropical Storm Harvey will be resold without being labeled as flood-damaged. A descriptive label known as a brand appears on vehicle's title to identify its current or former condition, such as junk, salvage or flood.
KTRH Car Pro Jerry Reynolds says, “Hopefully, if there’s an insurance claim made on a car, it’ll show up on a vehicle history report like CarFax or AutoCheck. But otherwise, you’ve just got to rely on some telltale signs and know what to look for.”
A quick cosmetic cleanup can make a flood car look presentable. Reynolds says you have to know where to look. “You want to look in un-obvious places, such as where the spare tire is,” he says. “If you see any mud around the spare tire or at the bottom of the well where the spare tire is, you know that car has been in water.” Check under the seats as well, he says.
Dealers must disclose in writing if a vehicle has been branded as a flood car. “Unfortunately, what happens too many times is, you get some used-car dealers that masquerade as private sellers,” Reynolds says. “[They’ll] take the car to their house, run an ad on Craigslist, and people come over to the house. They think they’re buying from a private owner that’s gonna tell them, no, this car’s never been in a flood.”
Since Houston used-car buyers will be wary of flood cars, Reynolds says Houston cars damaged by Harvey are likely to end up being sold somewhere else, such as DFW or Oklahoma.