To help consumers, Carfax set up a resource page where car buyers can enter a vehicle identification number and email address to get a free flood-damage report sent to them. It also contains advice for detecting flood damage in vehicles and a checklist for those considering buying one.
The Insurance Council of Texas is predicting insurance claims of $4.75 billion on the state’s flooded cars, trucks and commercial vehicles. Texans own nearly 14 million passenger vehicles and 6 million trucks, according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
About 15 percent of Texas motorists don’t have vehicle insurance, even though liability insurance is mandatory in the state. Of the remaining 85 percent, three-quarters of them carry comprehensive coverage, which would include protection against flooding, on their policies, the council said.
Edmunds.com estimates that 366,000 new vehicles on Texas dealer lots were damaged, including as many as 200,000 in the hardest-hit areas such as Houston and Corpus Christi.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, an insurance trade group, said many flooded vehicles will be sold to parts companies, which dismantle them and sell off useble components. But the bureau is cautioning buyers to “be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Harvey-damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas,” a problem that also occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
That disaster led the bureau to also create the free VINCheck database, which lets vehicle shoppers check a vehicle identification number to see if the car or truck was deemed “salvage” by an insurance company because of flood or accident or if it was reported stolen.
Uninsured vehicles, however, escape the insurance industry’s scrutiny.
“Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up and then taken out of state where the VIN (vehicle identification number) is switched and the car is re-titled with no indication it has been damaged,” the bureau said. “Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.”
Harvey battered Texas’ Gulf Coast Aug. 25 and spent the next week dumping record-setting rainfall on a vast area stretching from Houston to the Louisiana border. The storm caused 70-plus deaths and damaged or destroyed more than 250,000 homes.
Information from The Associated Press and Tribune News Service was used in this story.