Car shoppers: Watch out for flood-damaged cars


News reports from various states are warning car-buying consumers to be alert for vehicles that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. In states directly affected by the flood, authorities are issuing alerts and consumer guidance – New Jersey state officials remind us that Sandy-flooded cars can be resold, but they must be properly been titled as such.
Car-buying consumers in other states should also be wary because damaged cars are often professionally refurbished and shipped to other parts of the country to be sold where consumers are unlikely to be on alert. We’ve noted before that even when cars “clean up nice,” they may well have electrical or engine damage that will surface later – this is particularly true of salt-water damage.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission offers the following sensible steps that used car buyers should take before making a purchase:

  • Check the vehicle’s title history and be wary if the vehicle has been titled multiple times over a short time period.
  • Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if the car has been damaged in the past.
  • Look for an insurance company’s name on the title history, and contact the company for vehicle information.

The NJ MVC also offers ways to spot a flood damage car:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

For more tips on avoiding flood-damaged cars, see our prior Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car which we issued after the 2010 floods in Rhode Island.

Does homeowners insurance cover a flooded basement?


Here’s a question thousands of homeowners and renters will be asking now that the recent heavy rains are abating: Will insurance cover the water damage in my basement? Unfortunately for most the answer is “probably not.” Standard Homeowners’ insurance does not cover damage from flooding, so unless you have a specific flood insurance policy, you will have to foot the bill for any water damage from the recent rains. The Insurance Information Institute offers this rule of thumb: water that comes from from top down (ice dams, for example) is generally covered, but when water comes from the bottom up, such as in flooding, it’s not covered.

Many homeowners who live in a low-risk flood area think they do not need to insure against flooding but the reality is that in any given year, about one-third of all claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program are for policies in low-risk communities. Over a 30-year mortgage, your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood, compared to a 9% chance of fire. Water damage repair can be costly – you can learn just how costly with this inch-by-inch interactive cost of flooding calculator.
You can learn more about floods, your risk of flooding, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at Floodsmart.gov. Don’t get caught short – talk to your agent about flood insurance options – if you are in a low to moderate risk zone, insurance can be very affordable.

Are you covered? Check your flood risk


From New Hampshire to Wisconsin to Maryland, state insurance commissioners throughout the country are urging residents to buy flood insurance. Flood insurance is particularly important as we count down to this year’s hurricane season. Your homeowners insurance may cover you for water damage from a burst pipe, but if your water problem was started by Mother Nature, you are likely out of luck since most policies do not cover flood damage.
While you may think your flood risk is negligible, floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states. Here are a few interesting flood facts you may not know:

  • Your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of fire.
  • Last year, one-third of all claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program. were for policies in low-risk communities.
  • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Last year, one-third of all claims paid by the National Fllod Insurance Program were for policies in low-risk communities.
  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.

To find out the risk for your home or your business, enter your address to create your flood risk profile and assess your risk of financial loss. Or check your local FEMA flood map. You can also use this interactive tool to see the inch-by-inch cost of a flood in your home – as little as an inch or two of water in your home can add up to thousands of dollars in repair.
Talk to your agent about flood insurance – if you are in a low to moderate risk zone, insurance can be very affordable. Your agent will know the options and will know if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which helps homeowners, renters, and business owners to secure coverage.