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Hurricane Ida struck the northern Gulf Coast on August 29, coming ashore at Port Fourchon, Louisiana with sustained winds of 150 mph. That was only the beginning of the devastation as it tracked across the US until stalling over the Northeast, bringing excessive rain and massive flooding to major metropolitan areas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and especially New York.

That's the catalyst for a new report from Carfax, advising car buyers that as many as 212,000 vehicles could be severely flood-damaged from Ida's torrential rainfall. The report advises people that these cars could wind up on dealership lots and back on the road, possibly without any salvage or flood branding. That's not good, as flooded vehicles often appear normal at a glance but can fall apart later in life. That could be a few years down the road, a few months, or even a few days.

"Our data suggests that unsuspecting buyers everywhere are at risk of winding up with a previously flooded car," said Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax. "The real danger is that these cars may look fine and run well for a while, but sooner rather than later major problems are likely to occur. Flooded cars literally rot from the inside out and the damage is often difficult for untrained eyes to detect."

It's of particular concern now, given the absolute insanity that is the used car market in 2021. With COVID-related delays and the microchip shortage hammering new car production, demand for used cars is off the scale. We've seen customers and dealers pay exorbitant prices for older vehicles, especially trucks and SUVs but values for pretty much all vehicles are up right now. The temptation for nefarious individuals to turn a big profit on something that should be totaled will almost certainly be too great for some to resist.

Carfax advises buyers to be extra diligent during the inspection process. The report suggests looking for signs of flood damage such as musty odors, brittle wires under the dash, condensation in instrument clusters, damp carpeting or padding, rust in doors, and evidence of mud or sand under the seats or in the glove box.

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