It’s been a few months since Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc across Florida, and now the vehicles that were damaged as a result are hitting the market. We’ve had hundreds of inquiries from people who have recently purchased these vehicles, only to find out that their new vehicle was issued a certificate of destruction. One caller purchased 14 vehicles from an auction, only to find that each one was issued a certificate of destruction. So, what does this designation mean? What can and can’t you do with these vehicles?
What is a certificate of destruction in Florida?
A certificate of destruction is issued by a government agency to declare that the vehicle is no longer eligible for road use. In Florida, they call this a certificate of destruction but is also known in other states as a non-repairable, junk, or parts only.
A certificate of destruction is not a vehicle title, even though it looks like one. A vehicle title designates the vehicle owner, while the certificate of destruction designates the vehicle to be destroyed or dismantled. This designation is taken very seriously by both state and federal government agencies. In fact, in Florida, violating the certificate of destruction by selling, transporting, or delivering the vehicle without making proper notifications is a third-degree felony.
If a vehicle has been given a certificate of destruction, nothing shall be applicable. A certificate of destruction cannot be transferred or changed or ever roadworthy again. Nothing is applicable to the vehicle after it has obtained a certificate of destruction, other than complete destruction.
Why is a certificate of destruction issued?
The certificate of destruction may be issued by the government, but it’s the insurance companies who make the recommendation. This is because these vehicles have incurred significant damage from floods or accidents and the insurance companies who paid the claim do not want a damaged car to go back on the roads, even if it was repaired. Just because a repair is made doesn’t make the vehicle safe for regular use.
For example, a vehicle damaged by hurricane Ian may have significant flood damage that isn’t readily apparent. If ABC insurance company approves the vehicle for road use after the claim has been paid, and the flood damage corroded the brake line causing an accident, the vehicle owner can sue ABC insurance company for putting the car back on the road in the first place. The insurance companies want to ensure that no one gets hurt and that they don’t get sued for damages so they’re playing it safe by issuing a certificate of destruction.
Watch out for certificate of destruction cars at insurance auctions
We’ve been getting hundreds of calls daily from people looking to purchase these types of cars at insurance auctions like Copart and IAA. Even if the car looks to be in good condition from the outside, remember that water damage isn’t always visible. If the car was crashed previously, you may see the physical repairs, but water and electrical damage can be easily hidden. If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle from an insurance auction, make sure to understand that particular vehicle’s history. Many people buy cars from auctions all the time to flip and sell for a profit, but that can’t happen if the car has a certificate of destruction.
Before buying a vehicle from an insurance auction, check the VIN through the National Motor Vehicle Information System (NMVTIS). This is a national database for all 50 states that shows which VINs are out of commission due to destruction designations.
If you’re on the lookout for a vehicle from a Florida auction, be aware that these vehicles that were issued a certificate of destruction from hurricane Ian are showing up in the marketplace. Before you buy, check the VIN with the NMVTIS so you don’t get stuck with a vehicle that you can never put on the road.