There are about 20,000 cars on Pennsylvania roads that were once listed as totaled due to flood damage. Unscrupulous dealers skirt the law by purchasing salvage vehicles in areas ravaged by natural disasters and then registering them in states with less restrictive title laws. Only Texas and Louisiana, which have both been struck by hurricanes and tropical storms in recent years, have more flood-damaged vehicles on their roads than Pennsylvania, according to Carfax.
The vehicle history information company reached this conclusion after scrutinizing insurance company records and data. Carfax says that the number of previously flooded cars on American roads grew by 20 percent ibetween 2016 and 2017 and now stands at around 325,000, and that figure is expected to grow significantly in the coming years as thousands of cars flooded during hurricanes Irma and Harvey are registered.
Flood-damaged vehicles are a threat to all road users. While flooded cars may pass a cosmetic inspection, delicate yet vital components such as airbag connectors and anti-lock braking systems may be dangerously corroded. The presence of bacteria and mold could also pose a health risk to vehicle occupants. A Carfax representative urged car buyers to do their homework as the presence of flood damage on a title report can reduce the value of a vehicle by thousands of dollars.
Car buyers who find out that they have purchased a vehicle with accident or flood damage often feel that they have few legal options, but attorneys familiar with consumer protection laws may sometimes be able to pursue civil remedies on their behalf. While the Pennsylvania Automobile Lemon Law does not apply to used vehicles, car dealers may be held legally responsible for their actions when vehicles are not fit for their intended purpose.
Source: Pennsylvania Code, "General provisions-motor vehicle dealer", accessed on Jan. 31, 2018