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Thousands of vehicles were flooded after Ida dropped unprecedented amounts of rain in the area on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Cars were inundated in garages, abandoned on the sides of highways, or picked up from driveways by raging waters. 

Paramus had about 200 cars that were abandoned Wednesday night, a majority of them on Route 17. 

In Bloomfield there were at least 50 abandoned cars stuck in water on Newark Avenue. Even cars that were parked in garages weren't safe, residents reported in Fort Lee. 

If your car was among the casualties, there are steps you need to take to get your car running after the flood or put in an insurance claim. 

Does car insurance cover flood damage?

What happens next depends on the extent of the damage and type of car insurance you have, but people should brace for the worst and expect their cars to be totaled, according to ConsumerReports.org

Flood damage is covered if you have comprehensive coverage, which only about a third of people carry, Consumer Reports said. 

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"If a person has purchased comprehensive coverage (of course, before the storm), they should be covered for hurricane damage—including flooded cars," Ellen Edmonds, spokesperson for AAA said.  

"Car owners should file a claim as soon as possible, particularly with the possibility of mold developing," Loretta L. Worters, vice president at the Insurance Information Institute said. "Pictures can be helpful to show the extent of the damage. There could be physical damage from downed tree lines as well as flooding. Also a lot of the damage can be electrical that won’t show up in a photo or video."

How to check for flood damage

Justin Herndon, a spokesperson for Allstate Insurance, urged owners to be careful when they are finally reunited with their vehicles. When inspecting your flood-damaged vehicle, Herndon suggests you:

  • Survey the car’s potential damage and note how high the water rose in your car. 
  • Don't try to start your car when you get back to it. This will cause more damage if water is in the engine.
  • Start drying out your vehicle as quickly as possible, and contact a towing service to get it back to higher ground.

“Quickly drying a car flooded by saltwater is especially important, because saltwater is very corrosive,” Herndon said.

How do I file a claim if my car was flooded with water?

Contact the agent or company that sold you the insurance policy to file a claim. Many insurers have already or soon will be setting up disaster response stations in some of the damaged areas.

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Document your property damage with photos and video as soon as possible, if you can do it safely, and provide this information to your insurance adjuster. 

Consumer Reports urges owners to get a claim number and the name and phone number of the adjuster when filing a report.

"Find out when you can expect to be contacted. Ask for a payout estimate, and ask how you can limit your out-of-pocket expenses. If you’ll need to rent a car, ask for details about reimbursement before you do so."

How do I know if I'm buying a car that was flood-damaged?

This large loss of vehicles is coming at a time when car inventory is very low as a result of pandemic shortages, and demand high. Prices for used cars have skyrocketed. That could make it tempting for unscrupulous dealers to pass off flood-damaged cars. 

It is an unlawful advertising practice for a New Jersey dealership to fail to disclose in its advertisements that a motor vehicle has been previously damaged when such damage exceeds $1,000 and is known or should have been known by the dealer, according to New Jersey Consumer Affairs. 

Here are some tips from the state agency on how to spot if a car has been damaged in a flood:

  • Inspect the full interior of the vehicle for any watermarks or grit.
  • Look for evidence on the upholstery and the carpet. Check under the floor mats. Feel around for damp spots, especially in the seat padding, which takes longer to dry.
  • Search for rust on screws, seat springs and other metal areas where water would not normally be expected to intrude.
  • Check in the trunk for water stains. If your spare tire is in the trunk, check underneath it for signs of rust on the rim as well as the metal parts that hold the tire in place.
  • Be alert to any mold or musty odors as well as strong smells of shampooing, air-fresheners or sanitizers.
  • Test all lights, gauges and electronic systems.
  • Lift the hood and inspect the engine compartment for dirt, sand or residue.
  • Look for fog or condensation in the headlights, taillights and instrument panel. 
  • Always test-drive the car as part of your inspection. Keep the windows up to make it easier to detect suspicious odors.

Kristie Cattafi is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: cattafi@northjersey.com

Twitter: @KristieCattafi 

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