Storm-flooded cars may or may not be salvageable

Cars sit in the lot of The Little Garage in Huntington, windows down, doors open as they dry out after remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record rain across the tri-state area. Owner Matt Meng spoke to a half-dozen people on Friday morning. All of them had to abandon their cars after unprecedented flooding.

"People either not able to start their car or getting in the car realizing there's water up to their ankles," Meng said. 

Videos show cars stranded across major roadways in New York. AAA reports a 450% increase in the number of tows during the storm. AAA Northeast's Robert Sinclair Jr. said the damage is likely worse than after Superstorm Sandy.

"Back then the problem was the storm surge," Sinclair said. "Now it was rain coming from above and that impacted everyone no matter where you were in proximity to the nearest shore."

Dozens of vehicles stranded on flooded Major Deegan Expressway

If your car was flooded out by saltwater, it is not salvageable, according to the experts. But a car that took on freshwater may stand a chance if attended to quickly. The engine doesn't have to get wet to total a car, either. Many factors go into an insurance easement. It depends on the value of the car, how old it is, and its condition.

Meng explained there are electronics underneath the carpet that control important functions. While a car may initially seem like it has been salvaged, it isn't uncommon for other issues to arise.

"Water and electricity don't mix," Meng said. "Maybe a month later your amplifier isn't working or directionals are blinking fast." 

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While vehicles are in high demand with so many people driving and avoiding public transportation, experts caution buyers to beware of the used car market especially after a major storm.

"Drivers looking to buy a vehicle need to look out, need to look under the hood or trunk for mud line, the sort of watermark," Sinclair said. 

If a car was totaled by an insurance company, it should be listed on a Carfax vehicle history report.


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