BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As Americans pick up the pieces left behind by Hurricane Ida, the DMV is warning people about another hazard that the deadly storm has created flood cars.
“Unfortunately, with today’s modern vehicles festooned with computers and electronics, if you get inundated by water, you probably have a scrap of junk right now,” said Robert Sinclair from AAA.
Authorities estimate that thousands of flooded-out cars are going to end up back on the road and even on sales lots, another disaster for an unsuspecting owner. Officials say even a new car is susceptible to water damage.
“Within six months, you start seeing the wires and the electronic components literally rusting out of the car, and with the modern cars and all the electronics, you basically end up with an undrivable machine pretty quickly,” said Owen McShane.
McShane is the director of field investigations for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. In New York—as in most other states—once a car is flood-damaged, the insurance carrier writes it off as a total loss. The title is branded “salvage,” and the car’s value drops like a rock.
“Even if they buy a branded vehicle and it looks great—and see a title that is branded ‘salvage,’ ‘rebuilt,’ or ‘flood,’ once that salvage brand goes out there, it voids all manufacture’s warranties,” said McShane.
An owner who dries out their car might decide not to file an insurance claim, in which case, it wouldn’t show up as a flood car. But with so many sensitive electronic components in today’s cars, McShane says something is bound to go wrong. “The airbags, the sensors, all those generally get impacted by water, and how much or how little is still up in the air for every individual car.”
McShane says that anyone who buys a used car should always have it inspected by a qualified mechanic.
The DMV has a number of important tips for avoiding flood cars: