by Arif Halaby
With major weather disasters like the ones we have experienced recently in this country, there will be many cars and trucks damaged or destroyed. Some estimates put that number at over 500,000! Many of these vehicles will not show up in any easily accessible database that is designed to warn you if it has been salvaged or flooded. Certain websites and the Department of Motor Vehicles can allow you to check the title of your new purchase. It may be able to only tell you the information that was originally entered in their database. If a car was not insured at the time of the disaster or purchased directly from the owner by a third party, you could be headed down a dead-end road (not to mention, flat-out fraud).
You may never be fully aware of the truth.
Many of the vehicles damaged in Hurricane Sandy and Katrina wound up back on the streets. I was driving to Las Vegas from Santa Clarita after one of these hurricanes and driving past me on Highway 15 were two car carriers with cars that had mud rings around the middle of the doors. I did not know where they were going, but I am confident there are junkyards somewhere between L.A. and New York. Some were probably sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Experts say the electrical systems of the damaged vehicle usually needs to be completely reviewed and overhauled. Additionally, mold and mildew can hide in the fabrics, undercarriage and trunk compartment of your “new” used car. This may cause health problems months, or even years, down the road.
I encourage all my clients and any Santa Clarita residents looking to purchase a used vehicle to always check the COMPLETE owner history of the used car prior to purchase. If it was registered in Southern Texas or Louisiana, look twice and then have an expert check it out. It’s still a good idea to look at the various websites that can check for an insurance claim, but don’t forget the car title itself. If the title is “salvaged” you may want to avoid buying it unless you are handy in the world of mechanics.
Speaking with your financial advisor or other trusted financial professional prior to making any vehicle purchase is a wise financial move, especially surrounding a disaster. The last thing you want to affect your financial well-being is a vehicle that doesn’t work, but requires you to go to work to make a car payment.
Arif Halaby is a certified estate planner in California and president/CEO of Total Financial Solutions, Inc., a financial and insurance services company in Santa Clarita with offices extending to Simi Valley and Antelope Valley. Contact Arif at 661-753-9683.