Bob Giles, owner and operator of Giles Automotive in Lafayette, said on September 6 that area auto dealer business is brisk, but many customers who lost their vehicles to high water in the unnamed August 11-13 storm have no trade-in vehicles to offer when making their purchases, leaving some dealers short of available products in their used car lots. That situation may affect auto dealers far beyond Louisiana, he said.
"It's tough to get pre-owned vehicles into the lot," he said.
Automotive News has reported that more than 100,000 insured vehicles were flooded in the August storm, more than 100,000 people have filed for flood aid, and more than 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Vehicle flooding was most destructive to electrical systems, said Thomas Huffman, owner of Any Body Towing in Lafayette. He said other damages included water in motors and in the exhaust and intake systems.
"They are total losses," he said of most of those vehicles.
Huffman said wreckers continued to tow vehicles recently that were previously unreachable because of flooding that persisted in some neighborhoods. He said he was reluctant to send his own trucks into high water because he did not want them damaged.
Giles said the "vast majority" of vehicles that were caught in the flood have been totaled. He said Giles Automotive gave free inspections for flood damage; if vehicles could be salvaged, he said, the company is willing to help restore the vehicle.
Roszell Gadson, a media specialist for State Farm Insurance, said his company has processed some 19,000 flooded vehicles in Louisiana, most of them total losses. Every vehicle is different, but electronic damage can propel the cost of repairing a vehicle beyond its actual value. That's when insurers settle, he said.
According to Gadson, if a vehicle can be repaired, it may go to a certified mechanic for work. If it can't be repaired, the insurer will likely send it to a salvage vendor, perhaps to be broken down for parts. Oftentimes the vehicles are sold for scrap metal.
Damaged vehicles have caused some concerns, Better Business Bureau of Acadiana President Sharane Gott said. In a column published Tuesday, September 6, she cautioned consumers to beware of flood-damaged vehicles.
Gott offered these tips for avoiding the purchase of a flood-damaged vehicle:
- Check the title to make sure the car is not marked "salvage," which would indicate it came from a flood-affected state.
- Check gauges, lights, wipers, turn signals, radio, heater and the air-conditioner several times.
- Check the trunk, glove box and under carpeting for musty smells that indicate flooding.
- Get a pre-purchase inspection from a trusted mechanic.
Giles said reputable dealers would not resell a flooded vehicle. But he cautioned, "less-than-honest people will buy from a salvage yard," and repair branded vehicles for resale. Louisiana cars have been sent out of state, where they may get new titles that obscure the fact that they have been flooded, he said.
His business has to be careful that vehicles that customers offer as trade-ins have not sustained previous flood damage, Giles stated. Some customers are unaware that their comprehensive vehicle insurance includes flood coverage, unlike private homes that require additional coverage for floods.
"If you have comprehensive insurance, flood (insurance) is not an add-on," he said.
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