Mississippi is home to some of the nation’s most diverse weather patterns, with hurricanes and swamps in the south, and beautiful, near-tropical forests in the north. While this makes Mississippi an ideal place to live or vacation, it also means the region is vulnerable to floods. Hurricanes, sudden downpours, and a climate that’s humid all year make flooded cars a common sight in the marketplace.
These cars pose several risks and are not always a wise investment. In some cases, however, it’s possible to restore the vehicle enough to sell it for a profit. Here’s what you need to know before you attempt to repair a flooded vehicle in Mississippi.
Why Flooded Cars Are a Problem
A flood can quickly destroy even a brand-new, well-made vehicle. The damage, however, is not always visible. Once the car dries out, it might look perfectly fine, even though there’s mold growing in the seats, the frame of the vehicle is rusted, the seats and seatbelts are unstable, or the engine is irreversibly damaged. Unscrupulous sellers may even attempt to conceal the fact that a car is a flooded car. Even if you know it’s a flooded car, though, you can’t rely on a visual inspection alone. Many flooded cars look fine, and their fine appearance conceals much deeper issues that drastically lower the value of the car, rendering it unstable in a car accident, or even making it unstable to drive.
Challenges Unique to Flooded Cars in Mississippi
Cars flooded in Mississippi pose some unique challenges. Mississippi’s year-round humidity and nearly year-round warmth make it a nice place to live. But these climate issues also mean that flooded cars housed in Mississippi are at a heightened risk of problems. Cars flooded in Mississippi may:
- Never fully dry out, thanks to the state’s humidity.
- Take much longer than cars housed in other states to dry, raising the specter of mold, mildew, and fungal overgrowth.
- Be more fully flooded than other vehicles, particularly during hurricane season, leading to rust. Rust isn’t always visible, and can slowly erode the car’s frame, engine, and other vital parts.
- Need to have their entire interior replaced, which can be an undertaking so costly as to not be worth it.
Flooded Car Titles
In Mississippi, a car that has been flooded will no longer be eligible for a title until its owner applies for a new title denoting the car’s flood status. The car will be labeled a salvage car, with a special note on the title indicating that the car has been flooded.
In some states, almost any car can get a salvage title. In Mississippi, however, salvage titles are only available when the car’s owner can show they have rebuilt a significant portion of the car. Thus a Mississippi-flooded car sold under a salvage title may have already undergone extensive repairs. Without a full vehicle history report, however, there’s no way of knowing for sure what condition the vehicle is in.
Repairing the Car
You can repair a flooded car and apply for a salvage title if the car does not already have such a title. Alternatively, you can purchase a flooded salvage vehicle in Mississippi and attempt to repair it beyond what the original seller has already done. But there’s an open question as to whether this is a wise undertaking.
Mississippi does not allow owners of flooded salvage cars to ever abandon the flooded notation on their titles. That means the value of the car will always be significantly lower than its value on the market if it were not a flooded title. Even if you fully restore the car, or put more money into it than it is worth, selling the car may be a losing investment if you’re not meticulous in your spending habits.
The Dangers of Title Washing
If you’ve fixed up a flooded car, you might be tempted to try to obscure its history as a flooded vehicle—particularly if you know the car has been rebuilt well. One way to do this is to register the car in another state, in an attempt to obscure its history.
This is known as title washing, and while it might seem like a harmless strategy for maximizing sales profits, it’s a crime. You can be prosecuted if you are caught, and it’s fairly easy to get caught in a title-washing scheme. Perhaps even more frightening, you can be sued and held civilly liable for any damages resulting from the car sale. That means the new owner can sue you to recover the purchase price, any costs they’ve incurred attempting to repair the car, and the costs associated with any damages the car has cost—for example, from an auto accident. Title washing is not worth it. Don’t do it!
Selling and Profiting From the Car
Sometimes a Mississippi flooded car is a good investment. Here are some strategies for buying and selling a car without losing money:
- Only purchase a car when you have full access to the vehicle’s history report.
- Only buy a car that needs minimal repairs.
- Consider purchasing high-value or collector’s cars, since these cars typically fetch a higher price.
- Don’t purchase low-value cars, or cars that are very low or need extensive work.
- Know how to fairly price your car. Salvage cars go for about 5% less than market value when they’re in excellent condition. Plan and budget accordingly.
- Become involved in your local salvage vehicle community, since other dealers are often a great source of information about buying and selling flooded and salvage vehicles.