While Kentucky has not been directly affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the state could soon experience flooding of another kind: a rise in damaged vehicles.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Vehicle Regulation is preparing for an influx of title requests for vehicles that have been deemed a total loss due to natural disaster damage in states such as Florida and Texas, then brought to Kentucky to be “rebuilt.”
“Our title requests for flood-damaged vehicles tripled after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Kentucky has a sizeable ‘rebuilt car’ industry, and many vehicles deemed as scrap or junk make their way into our state,” John-Mark Hack, commissioner for the Department of Vehicle Regulation, said in a state news release. “Consumers need to be aware that many of these vehicles will be hitting the market, and there’s a potential for issues with a rebuilt automobile.”
Flood-damaged vehicles in other states are given a scrap title or junking certificate. Florida uses a certificate of destruction; Texas provides a non-repairable title. After arrival in Kentucky, flood-damaged vehicles undergo a “rebuild” process that typically involves only cleaning the interior and exterior and changing the system fluids. These vehicles are then sold at a significantly reduced cost.
“If a buyer finds a deal on a vehicle that seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” Hack said. “While the automobile may appear to be in good physical condition and the engine runs well at the time, there’s a great potential for damage to the mechanical, electrical and safety components.”
Under Kentucky’s current law, the title applicant must submit two photos of the vehicle and two estimates of damage costs: the fees for cleaning and changing fluids. If the damage cost is less than 75 percent of the vehicle’s retail value, then the Department of Vehicle Regulation issues a new certificate of title. The new title is printed in red ink with the words REBUILT VEHICLE on the face of the title. This is done in an effort to alert consumers of the vehicle’s history.
Consumers need to conduct research of their own before purchasing a rebuilt vehicle by obtaining a vehicle history report and having the vehicle inspected by a mechanic. Consumers should also be aware that obtaining a loan or insurance for these vehicles may be difficult.
There are two other pieces of information that owners of rebuilt vehicles need to know. First, motorists driving a rebuilt car or truck back to the state where it was originally given a scrap title run the risk of the vehicle being confiscated if they are stopped by law enforcement. Second, these vehicles cannot be sold to consumers in most other states in the U.S.
For more information, visit Drive.Ky.Gov, click on Vehicle Services at the top of the page and then click on Titles.