The damage done to dealerships by Hurricane Charley was substantial. But it was just a part of the total devastation left by the storm, especially across central Florida.
Obviously, providing shelter, food, and water to those who need it and restoring power are at the top of everyone's punch list. And dealers are doing their part in the relief effort, if they are able.
As dealers who suffered heavy losses struggle to get their businesses up and running insurance adjusters already are writing checks -- some on the spot -- for the thousands of new and used vehicles that were damaged or destroyed.
After the claims are paid, many of those cars and trucks will be re-titled, repaired and sold by dealers as part of a post-storm event, as in "Hurry on down for the hurricane sale," or "Come in and get what Charley missed."
Most of the vehicles that are totaled by insurance adjusters and written off will end up in salvage auctions. Where they go from there is not so easy to say.
But here's a sobering thought: some percentage of those heavily damaged and totaled cars will end up in other states, sold or re-sold to unsuspecting consumers, perhaps even without the knowledge of the dealer.
Why? Because there is no national title-branding law that would prevent a salvage vehicle from being foisted on a dealer or consumer.
States have different standards for defining what constitutes a salvage vehicle. So a car that Florida considers junk could be cosmetically repaired and registered with a clean title in another state.
Most dealers are honest. They typically buy and sell used vehicles through the auctions. And auctions are a good first line of defense against title fraud because title checks are one of the services they perform to protect buyer and seller.
So the sharpies steer clear of the auctions and look for other ways to peddle their damaged goods. And they do find ways to do it, through unscrupulous dealers and curbside sales.
Psssst. Hey, buddy. Wanna buy a Florida car?
Neither do I.