COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Anyone in the market for a used car following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, beware; hundreds of thousands of vehicles damaged in flood waters are already being sold off.
It was another day of fixing cars inside the long-standing repair shop in Commack. Mechanics there are often asked to inspect used vehicles a customer is considering buying.
The first thing mechanic Dan McBride looks for is signs the vehicle has been through a flood.
“I mostly look through the trunk and the wheelbase that most people won’t look at to see if water got there,” he told CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
New numbers show the insurance industry has already filed 429,000 flooded vehicle claims from Harvey and Irma. Cars stacked on a Texas raceway will be legally sold at auction with dealers required to list the damage.
The auctions draw used car dealers with a potential for big profits, especially if they cover up the flood damage to sell to an unsuspecting buyer.
“At an auction you may get a vehicle for a few grand and then sell it to you for fifteen, twenty grand,” Tim Massa, Gasoline Heaven Repair Shop explained.
Experts suggesting asking for a vehicle title search and checking its history on the National Insurance Crime Bureau website. Before buying you should also ask to take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic who can check for tell-tale signs of hidden flood damage in places like the side door panels.
“You take the interior door panel off, if that car had water in it there will be a water line somewhere in the panel,” Massa explained.
A musty smell, extensive rust throughout the undercarriage, or tail lights that cloud up are also warning signs.
Inside, used car buyers should check behind seat covers for water damage, and make sure every electronic console is working.
Lastly, consider it a big warning sign if the seller doesn’t want another mechanic to look at the vehicle you’re thinking of relying on.