Dangerous vehicle secrets? Storm-damaged vehicles from other states could end up in Houston

How to double check used vehicles for past damage

As used car prices continue to rise, and with the shortage of new vehicles, you might have to really shop around to find what you need. You might not be able to tell if the used car you are buying has storm damage. Learn how major damage is concealed and what you can do to find out all the facts about a used car.

HOUSTON – As used car prices continue to rise, and with the shortage of new vehicles, you might have to really shop around to find what you need. You might not be able to tell if the used car you are buying has storm damage. Learn how major damage is concealed and what you can do to find out all the facts about a used car.

Storm-damaged vehicles sent across the country to be sold

While the Houston area dodged major storms this hurricane season, other parts of the country did not, and thousands of vehicles were damaged. Carfax estimates there are at least half a million cars damaged by flooding and many of them are being sold in other states. When a car is moved out of the state where storm damage occurred, the title gets “washed,” removing all evidence of flood or a reconstructed title. The car with a “clean” title is then shipped to other states and sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Carfax looks into flood damaged vehicles that are resold all across the United States. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“The telltale signs of a car being damaged by a hurricane is usually very basic flood damage. You know, if there’s widespread staining on the floor that creeps up to a certain level and if there’s any electronics that don’t work and they seem somewhat sporadic. So, let’s say that your driver’s side window doesn’t work, but also your rear passenger locking mechanism on the door doesn’t work,” said social media expert Evan Noriega Thomas.

How you can check a used vehicle for storm damage

Storm-damaged vehicles may “look” fine but have serious internal damage you can’t see. A damaged vehicle poses a serious safety threat to drivers and passengers because flood damage causes non-functioning airbags, engines, brakes, and electrical system damage.

Agencies like Auto Check or the National Insurance Crime Bureau provide a free “storm damage scan” for consumers to check cars before they buy them. By using the VIN number, the services will tell you whether the car was reported as storm-damaged or if the car was registered or titled within 12 months prior to a storm in counties affected by recent disasters.

The bottom line: be wary of someone trying to sell a car below its market value.

The Texas Attorney General’s office also has great resources for how to avoid buying a storm-damaged vehicle. This is also where you can file a complaint if you think you’ve been sold a damaged vehicle.

Used cars are in demand right now

How to find the best deal on used car prices. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

We told you a few weeks ago about the popularity and high prices of used vehicles right now. That’s good news if you are looking to sell your car and not so good if you need to buy, especially for certain types of vehicles. The go-to affordable used cars from the past are no longer affordable. If you need to buy a used car right now, we spelled out a few things you can do to find the best deal here.

*We worked on this story about flood-damaged vehicles with help from Ivanhoe Broadcasting.


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.