This year, the United States experienced a record number of hurricanes affecting major metropolitan areas, where some of the affects still linger, leaving many vehicles damaged or lost due to the storms. This year alone, over 637,000 vehicles were affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma - surpassing the total of those damaged by Hurricanes Katrina (approx. 300,000) and Sandy (250,000).
To help identify which vehicles may have been reported affected by the storms, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) offers VINCheck, a free service provided to the public to assist in determining if a vehicle has been reported as damaged and branded. NICB works with cooperating member insurance companies to obtain information on vehicles that have been stolen but not recovered, or have been reported as salvaged. Such vehicles are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
Please Be Aware: Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title, but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren’t insured may be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage. In turn, those vehicles may make it to many of the major metropolitan areas.
Some unscrupulous vendors may also buy a branded vehicle, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a “clean” title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded. To be safe, we encourage anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the near future to look for signs of hidden flood damage. Here are some tips:
1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
8. Check the operation of electrical components
9. Check for mold or a musty odor