Horrific hurricanes create pitfalls for car buyers

A car sits in a flooded parking lot outside the Germain Arena, which was used as an evacuation shelter for Hurricane Irma, which passed through yesterday, in Estero, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A car sits in a flooded parking lot outside the Germain Arena, which was used as an evacuation shelter for Hurricane Irma, which passed through yesterday, in Estero, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In this undated photo provided on Sunday Sept. 10, 2017, by the British Ministry of Defence, cars that have been turned to wrecks by Hurricane Irma on the British Virgin Islands. The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. (MOD via AP)
In this undated photo provided on Sunday Sept. 10, 2017, by the British Ministry of Defence, cars that have been turned to wrecks by Hurricane Irma on the British Virgin Islands. The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. (MOD via AP)

Police officers plow through floodwater on Hendricks Avenue in San Marco as Hurricane Irma passes by Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
Police officers plow through floodwater on Hendricks Avenue in San Marco as Hurricane Irma passes by Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

This photo shows damaged homes in Big Pine Key, Fla., the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Irma laid waste to beautiful Caribbean islands and caused historic destruction across Florida. The cleanup will take weeks; recovery will take months. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
This photo shows damaged homes in Big Pine Key, Fla., the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Irma laid waste to beautiful Caribbean islands and caused historic destruction across Florida. The cleanup will take weeks; recovery will take months. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

A woman with her two children walk past debris left by Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.  The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
A woman with her two children walk past debris left by Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Boats blown away from their docks sit in the marsh after Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at St. Marys on the Georgia coast. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Boats blown away from their docks sit in the marsh after Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at St. Marys on the Georgia coast. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

This photo provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shows the wreckage of a truck wrapped around a tree near 98th Street and Highway 1 in Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Authorities say they are investigating whether Hurricane Irma's wind and rains contributed to the fatal crash. (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
This photo provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shows the wreckage of a truck wrapped around a tree near 98th Street and Highway 1 in Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Authorities say they are investigating whether Hurricane Irma’s wind and rains contributed to the fatal crash. (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Cars wait in line for gas as a station opens for the first time since Hurricane Irma passed through in Miromar Lakes, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Cars wait in line for gas as a station opens for the first time since Hurricane Irma passed through in Miromar Lakes, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A tree, knocked down by Hurricane Irma, sits on a home and car in the Maitland Isle neighborhood in Maitand, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The storm dragged down power lines and blew out transformers knocking out power to millions across Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
A tree, knocked down by Hurricane Irma, sits on a home and car in the Maitland Isle neighborhood in Maitand, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The storm dragged down power lines and blew out transformers knocking out power to millions across Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Power lines are damaged after the passage of Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.  The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
Power lines are damaged after the passage of Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Damaged houses are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in the Florida Keys. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Damaged houses are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in the Florida Keys. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

A bed sits amongst the remains of its room in a home demolished from Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A bed sits amongst the remains of its room in a home demolished from Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Debris and destruction left by Hurricane Irma. (Courtesy Steve Dresner)
Debris and destruction left by Hurricane Irma. (Courtesy Steve Dresner)

A sailboat is pushed up between two buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
A sailboat is pushed up between two buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Men remove debris off a road in the Cole Bay community in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people across an island shared by Dutch St. Martin and French St. Martin are trying to rebuild the lives they had before it was pummeled by a  Category 5 storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Men remove debris off a road in the Cole Bay community in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people across an island shared by Dutch St. Martin and French St. Martin are trying to rebuild the lives they had before it was pummeled by a Category 5 storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

John Duku
John Duke tries to figure out how to salvage his flooded vehicle in the wake Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

People tend to a car that flipped over on Cape Coral Parkway during Hurricane Irma, in Cape Coral, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
People tend to a car that flipped over on Cape Coral Parkway during Hurricane Irma, in Cape Coral, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Motorists drive around a downed traffic light from winds from Hurricane Irma Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Mulberry, Fla. The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over the area early this morning. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Motorists drive around a downed traffic light from winds from Hurricane Irma Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Mulberry, Fla. The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over the area early this morning. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

A van remains in a sinkhole, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma's passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
A van remains in a sinkhole, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma’s passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Residents take photos of a van in a sinkhole Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma's passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Residents take photos of a van in a sinkhole Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma’s passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Wind and rain from Hurricane Irma caused a tree fall on a car and brought down utility lines  on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Macon, Ga. (Woody Marshall/The Macon Telegraph via AP)
Wind and rain from Hurricane Irma caused a tree fall on a car and brought down utility lines on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Macon, Ga. (Woody Marshall/The Macon Telegraph via AP)

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A car sits in a flooded parking lot outside the Germain Arena, which was used as an evacuation shelter for Hurricane Irma, which passed through yesterday, in Estero, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In this undated photo provided on Sunday Sept. 10, 2017, by the British Ministry of Defence, cars that have been turned to wrecks by Hurricane Irma on the British Virgin Islands. The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. (MOD via AP)
Police officers plow through floodwater on Hendricks Avenue in San Marco as Hurricane Irma passes by Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
This photo shows damaged homes in Big Pine Key, Fla., the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Irma laid waste to beautiful Caribbean islands and caused historic destruction across Florida. The cleanup will take weeks; recovery will take months. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
A woman with her two children walk past debris left by Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.  The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
Boats blown away from their docks sit in the marsh after Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at St. Marys on the Georgia coast. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
This photo provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shows the wreckage of a truck wrapped around a tree near 98th Street and Highway 1 in Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Authorities say they are investigating whether Hurricane Irma's wind and rains contributed to the fatal crash. (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Cars wait in line for gas as a station opens for the first time since Hurricane Irma passed through in Miromar Lakes, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A tree, knocked down by Hurricane Irma, sits on a home and car in the Maitland Isle neighborhood in Maitand, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The storm dragged down power lines and blew out transformers knocking out power to millions across Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Power lines are damaged after the passage of Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.  The storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
Damaged houses are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in the Florida Keys. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
A bed sits amongst the remains of its room in a home demolished from Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris and destruction left by Hurricane Irma. (Courtesy Steve Dresner)
A sailboat is pushed up between two buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Men remove debris off a road in the Cole Bay community in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Martin, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people across an island shared by Dutch St. Martin and French St. Martin are trying to rebuild the lives they had before it was pummeled by a  Category 5 storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
John Duku
People tend to a car that flipped over on Cape Coral Parkway during Hurricane Irma, in Cape Coral, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Motorists drive around a downed traffic light from winds from Hurricane Irma Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Mulberry, Fla. The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over the area early this morning. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
A van remains in a sinkhole, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma's passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Residents take photos of a van in a sinkhole Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, that opened up at the Astor Park apartment complex in Winter Springs, Fla., during Hurricane Irma's passing through central Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Wind and rain from Hurricane Irma caused a tree fall on a car and brought down utility lines  on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Macon, Ga. (Woody Marshall/The Macon Telegraph via AP)

WASHINGTON — Hurricanes Irma and Harvey caused massive amounts of flood damage in the Florida and Texas regions, leaving entire neighborhoods under water.

They also ruined hundreds of thousands of cars.

However, not every one of those vehicles was totaled, creating potential pitfalls for people searching for used cars in the near future.

“Car buyers may be asking for a world of trouble if they purchase these vehicles,” said AAA spokesman John Townsend. “Shoppers need to know how to spot a vehicle that has suffered flood damage.”

Hurricane Harvey in particular spurred catastrophic floodwaters in the Houston area, submerging up to one million vehicles.

“That is twice the number of vehicles despoiled by Hurricane Katrina and destroyed by Superstorm Sandy combined,” AAA said in a news release.

As thousands of cars affected by both Harvey and Irma begin to hit used car markets in other regions, including the D.C. area, in the coming weeks and months, there are a few things buyers can do to protect themselves.

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First, experts say you should arrange a pre-purchase inspection, especially if you suspect that a vehicle has been in one of the areas that were directly impacted by the hurricanes.

“Inspectors will look for the telltale signs of flood damage like dried mud under the hood or inside the trunk,” said Townsend. “They’ll also look for a waterline on the body of the car, and they’ll look for the signs of fogging inside the headlights and taillights.”

Other indicators include a musty odor in the vehicle and water stains on seat belts.

You also should be wary if you spot brand-new carpeting and upholstery in older vehicles.

“Most of all, obtain a vehicle history report, which can be very helpful,” Townsend said. “They may not catch every potential problem, but they usually indicate when a car has been flooded or has a salvage title, which is a sign of a troubled and watery past.”

Another way you can investigate a vehicle’s history is by using VINCheck through the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Buyer beware: AAA spokesman John Townsend on flood-damaged cars.

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