Used-car prices rise in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy will cost the East Cost billions in loss and repairs, and it’s likely that used-car shoppers will have to open their wallets even wider to buy a previously owned vehicle. The storm took out thousands of vehicles, says the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which predicts that prices of used cars will rise 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent as a result.

“The loss of used-vehicle supply and the increase in replacement demand after Hurricane Sandy will have the greatest impact on usedvehicle prices in December,”said Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide.

NADA is using the flood damage and its impact on used-car sales seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a guide to predict Sandy’s effects on prices. According to NADA, the reduced supply of used cars coupled with increasing demand after Katrina caused prices to increase by about 3 percent, or $309, in the four months after the 2005 storm.

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The agency has adjusted its prediction based on the estimated number of vehicles affected during Sandy and the cost of the damage. EQECAT, a catastrophe risk analytics company, puts insured losses related to Sandy between $10 billion and $20 billion and projects total loss between $30 billion and $50 billion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the insured loss cost of Hurricane Katrina was $46.5 billion, and the total cost was $145 billion.

“Although Sandy’s reach encompassed an area with a greater population density than Katrina, the number of vehicles damaged by flooding doesn’t appear to be as high as the number lost to Katrina,”Banks said.

Those of us in the rest of the country who escaped Hurricane Sandy were lucky to miss the direct effects of the super storm. However, cars damaged by Sandy’s storm surge could easily make their way into our region.

Here are some tips from Car Talk hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi about how to know if a car you’re thinking of buying has flood damage:

Assuming no obvious signs are present, you might see mineral deposits or discoloration on the seats, seat belts, or door panels. There might be droplets of moisture on the inside of the instrument cluster, warped or misshapen door panels (if they’re made of fiberboard), or an owner’s manual that looks like it fell into the bathtub.

In the trunk or engine compartment, you might find things like mud, sticks, or other debris. Inside, a heavy aroma of cleaners like Lysol is a telltale sign that someone’s trying to cover up a festering mold or odor problem.

But most likely, if a “professional” is trying to pass off a flood-damaged car on the used-car market, he will have cleaned up all those things and perhaps even replaced the seats and the carpet. And it will be very difficult for the average buyer or even the average mechanic to have any idea that the car was flooded.

Our best advice is simply to avoid used cars that have come from the flooded areas. How do you do that? The current title of the car provides no guarantee that the car is clean. Unfortunately, flooded and salvaged cars can be re-registered in other states with clean titles and then sold without disclosing the damage. That’s called title washing.

Your best bet is to use a service that traces the vehicle identification number.While it’s not absolutely perfect (it’s possible that someone with a car registered elsewhere could have driven to New York City and been there for the flooding), that’s about the best chance you have of spotting a potentially flooded car before you buy it.

Texas Opens High-speed Toll Road

Several interstates have speed limits higher than 65 mph, but Texas has the first 85 mph toll road.The privately owned, 91-mile highway recently opened, giving Texas the fastest highway in the United States.

The high-speed segment of Texas State Highway 130 stretches between San Antonio and Austin.The Detroit Bureau reports that it is operated by SH 130 Concession Co., which paid a $100 million fee for the right to set the 85 mph speed limit.

Motorists pay 15 cents per mile to use it and get to bypass the city of Austin, an area typically clogged by traffic. Originally conceived by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the superhighway is only a fraction of what he envisioned. Perry’s Trans Texas Corridor was to have been a high-speed, privately owned highway across the state. It was pared down to a 91-mile section.

Not everyone is happy about the increased speed limit, however. “The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up,” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said in a statement.