How to Check for Flood-Damaged Vehicles

After Hurricane Katrina, car-industry experts were alarmed at how many flood-damaged vehicles were showing up on the market and being purchased by unsuspecting consumers. Once auto insurers pay a total-loss claim on such vehicles, they are sold to the salvage market. Because they may not show any evident signs of damage after they are dried out, these vehicles may be cleaned and sold by con men. To address this problem, in 2009, the U.S. Justice Department began requiring insurers to report total losses in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System within 30 days. Salvage yards, dealerships, and car-rental businesses must also report totaled vehicles. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, consumers can access this information at


NOTE: Regardless of lax state titling laws or interstate sales, informs consumers whether an automobile has been designated as “totaled.”