Flooded Houston cars already in San Antonio area

Thousands of flooded cars sitting at the Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, TX. These cars will be auctioned off. (News 4 San Antonio)

Texas has the highest number of flooded vehicles in the country and they're being sold, not just in the flood-ravaged areas of Houston, but somewhere in San Antonio, and it's perfectly legal.

"Bottom line, flood cars literally rot from the inside out," says Chris Basso, Car Fax Public Relations Manager.

The tropical storm that followed Hurricane Harvey flooded entire coastal communities, including the city of Houston, and with it, hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

"Some were flooded above their roof line and we're talking about not only salt water, but also toxic water, too," Basso said.

"The water is going impact the mechanical systems, it's gonna short out the electrical systems and it's even gonna compromise your safety system, like your airbags and anti-lock brakes."

There is also the potential for health issues.

"Mold and bacteria build up in the soft parts of the car, especially the ventilation systems."

Shane Vaughn owns a prepurchase inspection business in Houston and said his business has increased 5 fold since Harvey hit.

"We've already found 63 flood damaged vehicles that were being sold by dealerships in the Houston area, large and small dealerships."

In the last couple months, they've smelled and seen it all; moist, musty carpet padding, soaked floorboards, and rusted metal parts.

Local auto inspector, Joe Trejo said some of those cars have already made it to San Antonio.

"What you can check for on the fire wall is water lines. Sometimes, if the vehicle is involved in an extensive flood then the water will rise and you'll actually see the dirt line from how high the water rose."

In the cabin, other than the obvious wet carpet, Trejo said the metal parts can be telling.

"Any sort of rust or corrosion on the bolt heads is going to be a real strong indication that vehicle was previously submerged in water."

Other obvious sources of flooding are sometimes found in the trunk.

"You might notice some surface rust on these accessories that are present," Trejo said.

Basso recommends having an auto inspection if there's any doubt about whether the car has been flooded, because even though a flooded, reconditioned vehicle legally has to come with a reconditioned title disclosing this information, there are no guarantees.

"Once it gets into one of the buyers' hands, they then can turn around and sell it and often times that's where we see issues of title washing occur," Basso said.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Carfax has opened up their flood database for free. Click HERE, and type in the VIN number to find out if the vehicle has been reported as flooded by insurance companies or repair shops.

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