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Nearly a Million Cars Flooded After Harvey

Houston is a spread-out, fast-growing city—meaning most of its residents rely on their cars. When Hurricane Harvey flooded major sections of South Texas, it left us with a variety of problems—but one of the major ones is how Houston is supposed to get around now. Experts estimate nearly one million cars were submerged in the floods, and recent footage of the recovery efforts shows the staggering amount of space required to process that much destruction.

Two local racetracks were enlisted to help house thousands of vehicles for the salvage effort: the Texas World Speedway and the Royal Purple Raceway. The Royal Purple has signed a six-month contract with Copart, the salvage auction company handling the salvage operation. The tracks alone will be able to accommodate 100,000 vehicles each, in addition to the parking space and the field space on the raceway.

At this point, the effort is simply focused on getting all the cars recorded and stored. Many of them will have mold growing on the seats as they sit in the warm Texas sunlight, waterlogged from the toxic waters Harvey spread all over the city. Once the cars are accounted for, they’ll await the efforts of insurers, dealers, or scrap collectors to claim them.

Buyers Beware: Signs of a Flooded Car

Consumer alerts have already been issued warning car buyers about dealers selling flooded cars. Cars with flood damage tend to have issues with anti-lock brake systems and airbags—two major safety systems. Sellers with uninsured vehicles will attempt to sell them for more than they’re worth…which means hiding their damage history.

Officials are urging buyers to be vigilant and use Carfax (or other services) to check every vehicle’s damage history. Experts say you need to check for rust on the seat rails and seat belts, as those are sure signs of flood damage. Also check for water lines in the trunk and behind the kick panels. If you’re not mechanically inclined, it might be best to hire a professional to look over the car with you.

Getting a Replacement Will Be Difficult for Used Car Buyers

As Houston fights to get replacements for their waterlogged vehicles, dealers already have plenty of brand-new cars ready or on the way. Unfortunately, buyers who rely on high-quality used cars or usable cars at low prices will have a harsher struggle. Used car dealers are having trouble finding affordable insurance policies for new buyers, which are driving away customers. Ten days after Harvey, insurers were still refusing to sell policies to low or middle-income drivers. With a glut of flood-damaged cars hitting the market in a few months, finding a quality vehicle at an affordable price will be nearly impossible to do locally. In the end, not being able to buy a brand-new vehicle will be more expensive for the middle-income or low-income households of South Texas.

That’s no small problem either—even high-income households will suffer if the market climate continues to batter our low-income neighbors. The economic recovery of Houston depends on everyone finding a way to get to work, get to school, and rebuild their lives.

To learn more, visit our website dedicated to Hurricane Harvey insurance claims.