Watch out for previously flooded cars

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said there may be as many as 10,000 cars in Oklahoma and Texas that were damaged by June’s record flooding. That could result in thousands of car insurance payouts, but only for drivers who carried comprehensive car insurance coverage.

Floodwaters can easily total a car by destroying the electrical system. Comprehensive coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a car wreck. It covers incidents involving fire, falling objects, missiles, explosions, earthquakes, windstorms, hail, flooding, vandalism, riots or contact with animals like birds or deer. The coverage will have varying deductibles, but some companies will offer a higher deductible as a way to lower your premium.

But be aware that there may be restrictions on when you can add comprehensive insurance to your auto policy, Doak said. Some insurance companies will not let you add comprehensive coverage right before a major storm is predicted.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is also warning anyone looking to buy a used car in the coming weeks and months. Vehicles may be cleaned up and sold by an owner or dishonest dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.

Buyers need to have a car checked by a reputable mechanic before handing over any cash. Look for:

  • Water stains, mildew or sand under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard
  • Rust on screws in the console or areas water doesn’t normally reach
  • Moisture, mildew or grime inside the seatbelt retractors
  • Damage to the door speakers

You can also check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) through NICB’s free VINCheck system to see the car’s history. Know that some crooks may illegally change the VIN and get a new, clean title. In those instances, trust your gut, and if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. For more information, visit www.ok.gov/oid.