How To Identify A Flood Damaged Vehicle From Hurricane Sandy Part I

cars under water

We’ve spent some time talking about what happens to Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina damaged vehicles. But if you have not read those posts, here is a quick snapshot. It’s an unfortunate and unnerving fact that there are thousands of these vehicles from these Hurricanes that are making it into our dealerships and being resold to our consumer market. There is no warning and the title has been washed. Legislation has been trying to pass a law requiring insurance companies to be more honest in their assessment of these vehicle’s, meaning to not pass these vehicle’s as anything other than totaled. State Farm has since entered an agreement as part of a plea deal after having bilked over 30,000 into buying these horribly damaged vehicle’s. When I say thousands, more than 250,000 from Hurricane Sandy alone. The fact that there are dishonest sellers, including dealerships, is unsettling. It’s not just the dealerships, it’s also happening in the private sector. No matter where you go, or who you talk to, you must equip yourself with knowledge, and stay informed.

The worse offense is when someone takes one of these vehicles, cleans it up, and then sells it to an unknowing victim. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is most concerned about these type of sales, but it doesn’t stop there. Some of these vehicle’s sat in four feet of flood water and sewage for days, many, many days; leaving the cars moldy and mildewed. These abusers of the law will get titles that have been “Title Washed”, these will buy the damaged cars on the East Coast and then travel to another state whose laws are lax and get new, clean titles. These vehicle’s, nationwide, have got to be scrutinized and caught before there is an unknowing buyer duped by the seller. This is the goal, but in the meantime……..



East Coast Hurricane Sandy’s Devastating Damage To Vehicles Part IV

Superstorm Sandy

The shortcomings of our system have provoked certain groups to warn people about these unsafe vehicle’s that are hitting the market in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, including the National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents car dealers nationwide and companies that sell reports on vehicle histories, like CarFax. There are watchdog groups that say insurance companies sometimes contribute to the problem by underplaying at auction the damage to a car. As a result, in 2005, the State Farm Insurance company reached an agreement with the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia for failing to properly title cars. From this juncture, State Farm had to reimburse over 30,000 affected customers. State Farm says they are complying with the laws in each state affected by Hurricane Sandy.

All of this will work for the dealerships but it still leaves vehicles being sold over the internet and person to person that bypass official channels. Until the titles themselves are branded with some sort of permanent stamp or mark, there will always be the chance of buying one of these totaled vehicles. As a PDR Technician you may come across vehicles like this quite often, which is very unfortunate. A lot of PDR Technicians will buy a vehicle in auction for their own practice and possible serious restoration. Having the tools and knowledge to start your own business means that you have nothing but options available to you. Hopefully, you to the Total Recon package so that you can really do so much more with a vehicle. If you have the room, I would suggest getting a car from auction to restore. I think I would even go as far as to get a cheap vehicle that in fact has been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. If you can identify and then attempt to fix these vehicles, you will know better than the next guy what can be fixed and what is just a total write off.

In a post coming up soon, we are going to talk about which classic vehicles are the best vehicles for restoration. In addition, my next post will go into detail on how you can tell if a vehicle has suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy. You will learn the tell tale signs and be better equipped to quote your customers and understand your limitations.


East Coast Hurricane Sandy’s Devastating Damage To Vehicles Part III

Superstorm Sandy

The hardest thing to understand is how or why humans would want to deceive their own kind, or take a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy and spread that tragedy over the entire US looking for suckers, one after the other. These cars that came out of Hurricane Sandy are arriving at auction branded improperly, most have their titles fudged. In most states, cars that are destroyed by flooding are required to have their titles marked, or branded, to indicate that fact. But the crafty can figure out how to clear that branding by doing something called “Title Washing”. What’s worse, unscrupulous dealers pile their purchases on flatbeds and head straight to states like Colorado and Vermont. Really just about any state will work.

Not all states are as blind as most other states to these title-washed vehicles. Officials warned consumers in Georgia, North Carolina and Illinois, where the Secretary of State’s Office is scrutinizing title applications for cars coming in from states affected by the storm.

It’s not as if legislation hasn’t tried to require total-loss status to be permanently affixed to a car’s title, they were trying to pass this before and after Hurricane Katrina, it just never passed. In 2009, the Justice Department introduced the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a database fed by insurers and states. It contains reports on the movement of cars sold at salvage auctions but is limited by sporadic reporting and incomplete data.

PDR Technicians on the East Coast need to be aware and hyper-sensitive to what is happening in our industry because of the dishonest that are trying to get over on our customers. In addition, how you work on these vehicle’s and if you should tell the owner is very important. For instance, are you obligated by law to report these vehicles? If so, to who? I will research that for a future post. Since no one is taking responsibility for anything, perhaps you don’t have to do a thing.