Texas Flooding: Spring 2015, , — June 2, 2015 16:12 — 0 Comments

ON-SITE REPORT: May 30, 2015

How Insurers Help You Steer Clear of Flooded Vehicles

Flooded car

Based on numbers alone, it’s likely the tally for flood damage in Houston will include higher volume for flooded cars than flooded homes. Most people own only one home and more than one car. (A couple I met living near a Houston bayou lost 3 cars in the recent flooding.) The good news is that most people have comprehensive auto insurance, which covers everything other than a car crash, such as when a wall of water collides with your car or vice versa.

One of the claims adjuster inspecting flooded cars in Houston inspected a vehicle that was obviously waterlogged from tires to hood. You could see the floodwater line above the window. It had me wishing there was such a thing as being “nose blind” to stinky smells. How to describe it? It was a combination of mold, sweat socks, and sour milk, also similar in some ways to the rotten-egg smell of marshes and mud flats, a scent familiar to those of us living on the coast. A truckload of Febreze won’t fix it. Cars like this are considered a total loss.

Flooded cars are considered totaled when the cost to repair them exceeds the car’s value. With waterlogged vehicles, cars are often totaled if the water rose far beyond the floorboards. If water gets into the cylinder, it can sit there for a while. The cylinder walls and rings can then rust, which makes the engine burn oil and run poorly. Water also affects the transmission and all the electronic controls – from airbags to ignition switches.

Flooded vehicles typically go to a salvage yard where the non-mechanical parts can be disassembled and resold. In some cases, the flooded vehicles are sold with a salvage title. This is like a cowboy’s brand on a steer, and it’s a good analogy because knowing a vehicle has been salvaged gives you the option of steering clear.

Sometimes, after a disaster, there seem to be a lot of good deals on used cars. But buyer beware! If a used-car price seems too good to be true, you need to do some homework. The insurance industry works hard to keep flooded vehicles off the road. In fact, the National Insurance Crime Bureau has a free service where you can check the vehicle identification number (VIN) on any used car you are considering. The free VIN check lets you know if the car was salvaged, and also if it was reported stolen.

Damage totals from the Texas floods are continuing to add up, and insurers will be there for as long as it takes to get everything running again.
The I.I.I.’s Catastrophe Response Coordinator, Lynne McChristian is in Texas to help with the recovery process. This is one of a series of reports on what she is seeing.


Leave a Reply