Source: / Anna Lindberg / TT06:01 | 2018-06-23

A stranded driver seeks assistance in Houston for his flooded car

A press release issued by listing provider Wayke has highlighted a new stream of water-damaged cars with hidden faults like waterlogged electronics has begun to appear on the Swedish market. Now, the industry warns of these cars from the United States, which were hit hard by several hurricanes last year indicating these vehicles may be dangerous to drive.

In 2017, the United States suffered from severe hurricanes like Harvey and Irma.

According to the car history company CARFAX, which, in conjunction with its partner Wayke, warns of dangerous vehicles, 2018 may be one of the worst years for the sale of these vehicles.

This happens every year when a natural disaster has occurred in the United States.

“We can see that it happened in the past when Sandy and Katrina raged in 2012. Then, the number of poorly repaired cars exported to Europe increased. Many of them end up in Sweden”, says Christian Wittmann, Marketing and Product Manager at CARFAX.

Electrical faults and rust damage

The company (CARFAX) expects a total of about one million so-called flood cars following the disasters, I.e. cars that have been submerged in water and damaged by hurricanes. Of these, half are expected to get back into traffic. Many end up in Europe – with thousands in Sweden. The figures are based on exported carcasses with previous vehicle records in the United States, as well as on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and statistics that are tracked.

Lars Stervander is a detective investigator at the regional investigation unit in Stockholm, specialising in vehicle violations. He thinks you should ask yourself how well the cars have been dried out post floods.

There may be salt in electrical wiring. Problems from this do not appear until a lot later. Then there can be delayed problems and rust damage in spaces where the air is not able to access so well, he says.

Some of the cars end up being scrapped in European countries, such as Lithuania.

Then two, three or more cars can be welded together to make one whole car. It’s basically scrap because it’s wiped out.

Dangerous to drive

The cars are then taken to Germany, where they are registered and can be sold in other countries in Europe. They may come to Sweden as German-imported cars, which makes it difficult for the buyer to see the American background. The vehicles are not sold at inflated prices, according to Lars Stervander, but usually, cost less money than non-imported cars do.

Often their exteriors repaired and detailed before they are sold making it hard to spot any problems.

The buyer has no idea. “You just see a beautiful car”, says Christian Wittmann. He emphasizes that dangerous vehicles can be dangerous to drive. Vehicles that have been underwater may have an electrical fault that can be difficult to detect in a sale, and these can result in basic safety features being inoperable. The emergency assistance systems such as airbag may cease to function, for example.

A consumer problem

Christian Wittmann advises anyone who is considering buying a second-hand car from the United States to check the car’s history.

  • Go to a mechanic who can look at the technical parts. From a crime point of view, hurricane-damaged cars are mostly a consumer problem, says Lars Stervander.
  • If you want to be reimbursed for any losses, you must first prove that the importer knew that the car was in poor condition and that, despite this, they usually try to find a way out of admitting fault. And it is very difficult to prove.
  • He believes that car buyers should preferably not buy imported cars where the vehicle’s history cannot be found. If you still want to buy an imported car, he thinks that you can turn to a company that reviews the history of cars.

I dare not say that this would completely guarantee you of avoiding such cars, but it is well worth such a service in terms of peace-of-mind.


Contact CARFAX

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FACTS: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

  • Hurricane Harvey hit the American South late on Friday night, August 25, 2017. In the big city of Houston, in the coming days, about 75 centimetres of rain fell – just east of the city at Cedar Bayou 131 centimetres fell and a new record was set for a single storm.
  • Compared with the Swedish record of rainfall during a four-day period, 25 centimetres in the village of Fagerheden 1997, the amounts of water that have fallen over Texas are said to be very extreme.
  • Internationally there are even worse examples. When the sky opened over the French island of Réunion in February 2007, rain fell for 96 hours resulting in 494 centimetres of rain falling.
  • Hurricane Irma crossed southern Florida on September 10, 2017. The weather caused more than 70 people to lose their lives in the state, according to US authorities.
  • Irma brought winds of up to 60 meters per second. First, a series of Caribbean islands were hit before the hurricane crossed Cuba and Florida.

Source: SMHI and Arizona State University.