Following the devastating storm season of 2017, thousands of flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have made their way into Mississippi. What is more concerning, flood-damaged vehicles could pose a safety hazard for potential buyers, not just in Mississippi – which has seen high numbers of these cars – but across the country.

What’s Being Done About This

flood-damaged car interiorBecause of the safety risk to consumers in their state, the Mississippi Insurance Department and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association have teamed up to protect residents from purchasing damaged vehicles.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) President and CEO Joe Wehrle, “Far too many vehicles that were flooded were not insured and if they go undetected, they can end up being a financial disaster for the buyer as well as a potential safety hazard."

Officials in Mississippi say that many of these vehicles from Texas, Florida, and Louisiana were sold to unethical dealers or dismantlers who clean them up, retitle them, and sell them for a quick profit. According to Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, the biggest threat is from cars that weren’t insured for flood damage.

“While those insured cars may show up in the NICB’s VINCheck database, the ones that didn’t have insurance are likely to be sold by the original owner for a few hundred dollars and then cleaned up and retitled by an unscrupulous dealer who will resell them for a few thousand dollars with no indication that the vehicles suffered any flood damage,” said Chaney. “It’s truly a buyer beware situation.”

To help unwitting buyers and stop these kinds of dishonest sales, the Insurance Department and repair shops who belong to the state’s Collision Repair Association are offering potential buyers free vehicle inspections.

John Mosely, of Clinton Body Shop and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association, urges anyone in the state that’s thinking about buying a used car to bring the car to an association member shop to be checked. “In addition to checking the hidden areas of the car for signs of damage, we can also run a scan of the car’s computer system to look for any codes that might indicate it had been exposed to water,” said Mosely.

“We applaud this cooperative effort to keep consumers from being scammed,” said Wehrle.

It’s Not a One State Issue

Whenever storms flood certain areas, the potential for damaged vehicles to be sold in other states also rises sharply. Often, these vehicles make their way into neighboring states – like what’s happening in the southern part of the country – but they also have the potential to be sold far from where any storm damage occurred.

Because so many vehicles were affected in 2017, it’s important to be aware of what to look for when you’re buying a used car. According to, any car that’s had floodwaters rise above its floor is considered totaled.

Here are some things to look for when shopping for a used vehicle:

  • Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) with an agency such as the NICB.
  • Thoroughly inspect the interior of the vehicle.
  • Check for moisture in the lights, and check the car’s wiring.
  • Check the vehicle for underside rust.
  • Check rubber drain plugs for signs of tampering or removal.
  • Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car.

Whether you suspect a vehicle you’re considering buying has been through a flood or not, it’s always best to have a mechanic completely inspect any car and get a vehicle history report before purchase.

Finding a Reliable Vehicle

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