Costly surprises await owners of abandoned flood vehicles

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — After hundreds of drivers in the region left swamped cars behind in high water from Hurricane Matthew, the bill for towing and water damage can add up quickly.

In some cases, the car will be a total loss.

In Norfolk, on Monticello Avenue at St. Paul’s Boulevard, a Jeep was the only remaining car Monday afternoon, among many that had been left after torrential rains. The city tow pound on Lance Road has been busy.

“We’ve brought in 89 vehicles so far,” Larry Keefe, director of towing operations, said early Monday afternoon.

Towing costs vary by city. For example, you start with at least $135 in Norfolk, depending on the size and type of vehicle. If it’s stored for more than a day, it’s an additional $30 a day. After three days, another $75 is added to the towing tab.

At AAA’s Car Care Center on Virginia Beach Boulevard, Operations Manager Kyle Loftus says not all cars caught in high water can be saved.

“Sometimes we’re lucky and we’re able to pull the actual spark plugs out, and spit out all the water’s that’s in there.”

Loftus says the location of your air intake is important.

“We’re trying to see how much water possibly got into the motor, trying to determine if the catastrophic damage has already happened.”

Water inside the interior could mean your car is trashed. 10 On Your Side saw cars where the center console was filled with water. That could indicate the car is not worth saving.

“If your car does have standing water in it,” Loftus says, “don’t even turn the key,” because you could fry electronics, electric motors, or computer gear.

Some insurance policies cover towing and water damage, but some don’t. If your policy is a liability-only policy, flood damage won’t be covered.

“If your car has been flooded out, it’s pretty much a total loss, and if folks don’t have insurance, they just have to take that on the chin,” Keefe said.