Gray Power: Watch for water-damaged auto selling schemes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sid Kirchheimer cautions the public that there are thousands of water-damaged automobiles. These autos are expected to go on the market, literally taking American car buyers for a ride.

Numerous vehicles were damaged by the hurricanes and flood damage. Many were declared a &8221;total loss,&8220; the usual pronouncement after a car’s engine, electrical system or interior sits water-soaked for two days or more. In such cases, insurers will pay off the owners and haul the vehicles to a salvage auction, ostensibly to be sold for spare parts.

Automakers who lose new cars due to flooding will have the flood-damaged vehicles shredded to avoid liability.

Many of the flood-damaged cars are still drivable &045; at least temporarily &045; and will wind up back on the roads, however.

&8221;People called curbstoners will buy these cars at auction, clean them up and sell them privately or through dealerships, usually out of state where they can be titled more easily without disclosing the water damage,&8220; says Christopher Basso of CarFax. Months after the sale, wet wires dry out and crack. Rust attacks the body and engine.

Brakes, doorlocks, computers, power windows and heating and air conditioning units fail.

The return of so-called flood cars to America’s roads is nothing new.

More than half of the 75,000 cars damaged by 1999’s Hurricane Floyd were resold from salvage. If the deal appears too good, it probably is. It’s not illegal to sell flood cars, so buyer beware.

Dr. Marvin Copes of Maylene is an education/community service volunteer for AARP Alabama. He can be reached at