In response to Hurricane Harvey, Carfax has opened its flood damage data base free to the public for an indefinite period. That database will collect information on flood damage to individual vehicles by VIN number from the state DMVs, insurance companies and repair shops in the affected areas.

Following Katrina 12 years ago, Carfax did identify cars by VIN that may have been in FEMA disaster areas, but company spokesman Christopher Basso said great strides have been made by DMVs, insurance companies and repair shops to better identify the vehicles and report flood damage. As a result, Carfax did not use the FEMA callout after Hurricane Sandy and instead provided information on specific vehicles with flood damage.

After Hurricane Harvey: How to spot and avoid damaged cars

“There’s been a much more coordinated effort by state and local governments [to identify vehicles] as well as the industry is much better prepared to process and brand these vehicles,” Basso said. “We’re working with state and local governments as well as the manufacturers, dealers and industry groups like NICB [National Insurance Crime Bureau] to help ensure these damaged vehicles are processed and added to our database.”

As for cars that may slip through the cracks because they weren’t insured or repaired by reputable shops reporting the damage, that’s when buyers should take a test drive and have the vehicle checked out by a mechanic to ensure that the vehicle they’re buying is as represented.

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