Thousands of flood damaged Texas vehicles back on the road

Posted at 4:57 AM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 06:35:05-05

Are you in the market for a used car?

Experts warn that close to a million Texas vehicles were damaged by Hurricane Harvey, and now many of those flooded automobiles are back on Texas highways.

If you don’t know what to look for, you may end up buying one.

A new report suggests thousands of vehicles, once stuck in flood waters, are now back on the road.

There are more than 150,000 cars that received flood damage during Hurricane Harvey, and they are back, not only on Texas roads, but also right here in our own backyard.

“For South Texas, I don’t how many made it back down here, but they shipped a lot of them out. The minimum of 10,000 between just the South Texas area and Houston or more, the minimum of 10,000,” said Mathis.

Mechanic and owner of James Mathis Exxon says he has seen plenty of flood-cars and knowing what to look for is key to avoid getting ripped off.

“The mechanics seem to know where to look for the problems on the car. And that goes back to pulling up door panels open, checking the oil, checking in the inside of the air cleaners, places where somebody is not going to look on a used car. Pulling the spare tires up, pulling the mats up underneath the carpet, looking underneath the seats. Any reputable place will know where to look, and when you get them off the ground, there are other areas that will show up too,” said Mathis.

Many vehicles were totaled by insurance companies and sold for scrap and parts. Others were cleaned and repaired. Texas law allows flood-cars to be resold, as long as their history is disclosed to the buyer with a new title that labels it as “damaged”.

“The insurance will total it, and they will wholesale it out, and when they wholesale it out, somebody can apply for a salvage title and get it running again and resale it. And that salvage title will state, salvage or rebuilt or whatever on there, but it won’t be just a clean title. Buyer beware…ever so buyer beware,” said Mathis.

Experts say flood-damaged cars that are sold instead of scrapped can have electrical, mechanical, and even safety issues that can even put your life on the line.

“If it didn’t hurt the motor there are a lot of electrical issues that can come from cars being in flood waters,” said Mathis.

Experts recommend a test drive and hiring a mechanic to inspect the vehicle before buying a used-car.

While Carfax is a great place to look at the history of your vehicle, there are other resources like or VINCheck.

Here’s the danger from flood-damaged cars:

  • Brakes, air bags and seat belts could fail
  • There could be engine or exhaust system failure
  • Bacteria in the ventilation system

    How to avoid buying a flood-damaged car

  • Shop at a well-established dealership that receive top ratings from the Better Business Bureau. You’re safer.
  • Avoid cars with a moldy smell and those that smell like air freshener.
  • Avoid cars where there’s any sign of rust, corrosion or dampness on the interior.