Virginia’s gorgeous scenery didn’t just happen overnight. A long history of climate changes and rough weather have sculpted lush hills and gorgeous valleys. Virginia’s temperate climate attracts people from across the globe, and its wide open highways are an ideal location to put the top down on your car and get some sun. It’s no wonder that so many Virginia residents fantasize about driving the perfect vehicle.
Unfortunately, the perfect car often comes with a hefty price tag. So many consumers have turned to the secondhand market to scratch their new-to-them car itch. Some are interested in buying salvage cars because of the steep discounts these cars offer. What about buying such a car, fixing it up, and reselling it? Can it be profitable? Possibly, but you need to be willing to put quite a bit of work into the car to ensure its profitability, especially if the car has a history as a flooded vehicle.
What’s Wrong With Flooded Cars?
Flooded cars often look externally fine, and some are even cosmetically perfect. That’s because it can take just a few inches of water to flood a car, and Virginia law requires that, once a car has been flooded, it must be branded with a salvage title. Unfortunately, it’s easy enough to obscure a car’s history as one that has been flooded by registering it in another state. When this occurs, owners can be saddled with cars that are dangerous to drive, and of significantly lower value than they appear to be.
Some of the issues associated with flooded cars include:
- Damage to the engine, the frame, and vital components.
- Damage to internal components, including seats and seatbelts.
- Rust, mold, mildew, and other damaging and dangerous chemical processes.
Should I Buy a Flooded Car?
A flooded car is not safe to drive until it has been fully repaired, so you should never buy a flooded car with the intention of immediately driving it. What about purchasing and rebuilding a flooded car? That depends on whether the possible profit outweighs and potential risks and expenses. If you can fix the car up, legally register it, and sell it on the market without obscuring its flooded status, then it may be worthwhile to do so.
If, however, you’re considering buying a flooded car and attempting to hide its status as a once-flooded vehicle, think again. This illegal practice is known as title washing, and can land you in serious legal trouble, subjecting you to lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, fines, and other penalties. If you have to engage in title washing to sell the car, the car is simply not worth selling.
Salvage Titles in Virginia
A car that has damage that meets or exceeds 75% of its total value must be declared a total loss by the insurance company. When this occurs, the car must be registered as a salvage title. A salvage title denotes a totaled car, and serves as a warning to potential buyers.
Many flooded cars are salvage titles. Once a vehicle has been branded with the salvage designation, it will always be a salvage car, because title histories are impossible to erase. So while it’s possible to rebuild the car, it will always sell for slightly less than fair market value. In most cases, rebuilt salvage cars start selling at about 5% below the value of a comparable used car, with values adjusting for availability on the market and other factors.
Fixing a Flooded Car in Virginia
It’s possible to fix a flooded car, but doing so isn’t cheap. Virginia allows owners to rebuild flooded and salvage vehicles and seek a rebuilt title. A rebuilt title certifies that the car has been extensively repaired, and can be an attractive incentive to buyers.
To seek a rebuilt title, you must repair any and all damage, provide details about any and all repairs made, offer images of the car before and after repairs, have a copy of the salvage title, and pay a fee. Not all cars that apply for a rebuilt title will receive one, so you should only consider this process if you are confident that you can affordably fix the car such that it ultimately qualifies for a rebuilt title.
Other Virginia Flooded Car Considerations
Ultimately, the decision of whether to buy a flooded car comes down to finances. Can you repair the car for less than the cost of the vehicle? If so, it may be worth it. Some other suggestions that can help you break into this market include:
- Consider seeking a dealer license so that you can attend dealer auctions, which typically offer higher quality, higher value salvage cars.
- Become involved with your local dealer community, either online or in person.
- Request a vehicle history report on any car you purchase, before you purchase it. This is the only way to verify anything the dealer tells you about the car, and can provide substantial reassurance to potential buyers.
- Don’t ever try to obscure the car’s history.
- Develop a relationship with a skilled mechanic you trust.
- Invest in high-value, collector’s and vintage cars, since these are more likely to fetch significant value on the market.
- Know exactly which cars you are interested in buying. Never buy a flooded car without knowing a lot about it.
- Don’t allow bidding wars with other dealers to blind you. If you do, you could end up paying more for a car than it is actually worth.