Jimmy Daniels, who owns the Lynch Collision Center in the Borough of Bristol, waited a month for a new airbag, ordering the Mustang to be fixed at his shop.
It is one of the auto parts that his and other repair shops have had to wait on due to a shortage of new cars, used cars and car parts as the COVID pandemic affected automotive manufacturing facilities here and abroad. has done.
“Yeah, we’re having a really hard time getting the parts,” Daniels said.
But last week, his towing business really took off.
On 12 July, 6 to 10 inches of rain in Benslem, Bristol Borough and Bristol Township threw water into low-lying areas that quickly flooded. The water damage caused to around 780 families and their homes has resulted in flooding of several vehicles.
The PEMA site opens:Victims of the July 12 floods? Here’s How You Can Get Help
Wolf promises help:‘We need to do more’ to help flood victims, says Wolf during visit to Benslem, devastated Bristol
The need for repair or replacement cars now has greatly increased demand for the already burdened auto industry in Bucks County, and has also created some hectic days for insurance agents and car leasing companies.
Lynch Towing wrecked 12 vehicles in the borough by floodwaters and now has them in a fenced enclosure, awaiting their fate after an insurance inspection.
On Monday, the vehicles were parked there, which were drying up in the hot sun even after a week. One’s trunk was still full of water.
Damage “varies from car to car,” Daniels said. If water gets into the engine, “it destroys the engine. It also soaks up the carpet, upholstery. This will create a mold issue. Many times the insurance company will end the vehicle outright because it doesn’t want liability.” is,” he said.
Water can also affect the electronic components under the dashboard and rust the metal parts of the vehicle, he explained.
Many drivers affected by the flood lost access to one or more vehicles that they kept insurance agents extra busy.
“Last week was bad,” said Thomas LaCroix, who owns Allstate Insurance Agencies in Fairless Hills and the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. “Looks like Hurricane had a mind of its own. We had a lot of claims from Benslem and Bristol.”
For our customers:Within minutes his life was washed away. These Benslem residents are now searching for answers
A customer was driving his truck in Montgomery County when a neighbor asked him to go home and take his private car because their street was flooded. By the time he got there, the car was soaked.
“We call it McKinley Lake,” said Veronica Serrano, a resident of McKinley Street in Bristol, which was hit hard during the storm. Both his family’s vehicles were taken out of commission.
“They were both towed,” she said, to the two different dealerships where they were bought. “We have insurance coverage … I haven’t had a car since Monday.”
Do you have the right insurance coverage?
LaCroix said vehicle owners need comprehensive coverage to file a flood claim, and not all auto insurance policies have this. Sometimes, when a person has an older vehicle, they opt for basic liability coverage only if they are in an auto accident and injure someone or cause damage to their vehicle, but not liability insurance. Does not cover damage to their own car. This requires collision coverage. And it doesn’t cover floods.
Comprehensive coverage is required for problems such as floods and falling trees on the car, or theft of the car. LaCroix highly recommends that anyone buying a new or near-new vehicle should make sure their coverage is complete, including liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage, especially if they live in an area where flooding. even if it is not a designated flood-prone area. .
And all car buyers or vehicle leasers should know what their insurance coverage is and when the policy is in effect when they drive through a dealership lot.
“When you get behind the wheel, insurance is peace of mind,” he said. “It’s really important for people to know their coverage.”
He added that this also applies to homeowners or renters insurance. A resident may have insurance coverage for a sump pump failure or a drain backup, but this is not the same as flood coverage for water coming into the home through doors or windows.
“Anyone can put flood insurance in (their policy) and it is relatively cheap,” he said if the person does not live in a designated flood-prone area.
Anyone with a car damaged by a flood should alert their insurance agent immediately to see if it is covered. Sometimes insurance will cover taking the vehicle to a repair shop.
When a claim is filed, the insurance agency either sends an agent or does a FaceTime inspection of the vehicle to determine how much the flood affected it and whether it can be repaired. Meanwhile, some insurance agencies arrange rental vehicles for the customer based on coverage.
If the person has recently purchased new tires or other equipment for the vehicle, this can increase the insurance payment if it is total. The person must have a receipt or proof of purchase.
But even when a person gets a settlement from his insurance company, he may not be able to buy another car immediately.
Need a new car? get in line
Paul Muller remembers when his Team Toyota dealership had 400 to 500 vehicles in stock.
“We now have 40 to 50. Basically, we’re selling them,” the dealership’s president and owner said in an interview before the Lower Bucks flooded in. “Most of the cars are sold before they are found.”
And auto dealerships are also having a hard time getting parts to be repaired. “Even parts for domestic cars are made overseas, where manufacturing of computer chips has been an issue since the pandemic began,” Muller said.
Shortage of longshoremen at California ports and long-distance truckers due to the pandemic have also caused additional delays in the delivery of vehicles and car parts to area dealerships.
“I’ve been in and around the car business for 50 years, never seen anything like it,” Muller said.
He said that the prices of used cars and rental vehicles are also increasing due to their scarcity. The reduction in rentals, he explained, is because leasing agencies sold off some of their fleet of vehicles last year when the pandemic kept people home and cars no longer needed.
They’re in demand now, big time, as people need transportation while waiting for their vehicles to be fixed or a new car delivered. Allstate has launched a ride-sharing service called Avail, located locally at Philadelphia International Airport, to help those who can’t locate a rental vehicle.
LaCroix said Allstate has been good at extending the time drivers can have a rental vehicle if their car repairs are delayed, as they have tried to help people during both the pandemic and the floods. .
Last week he had a customer who wanted to lease an SUV because he would have an easier time getting into a vehicle than a sedan. The third call was the charm. He was able to get the man the vehicle he needed.
Both LaCroix and Muller — whose teams have Toyota dealerships in Middletown and Glen Mills, Delaware County and Lawrenceville, New Jersey — said their businesses rely on good service to drive repeat customers, even in these trying times. even during.
“Seventy percent (of the business) are repeat customers,” Mueller said. “I don’t want to take advantage of them.”