Buying a 2015 BMW for $10,000 at India's Flooded Cars Auctions

BMW 3 Series 1 photo
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On December 1, 2015, India’s south-eastern city of Chennai went through one of the worst floods ever recorded. A mixture of heavy rainfall and dubious management of the surrounding water reservoirs caused the river Adyar to swell far beyond its critical limits.
The city was transformed into a lagoon in a matter of hours, and the lower parts of the Chennai remained under water for almost a week. The aftermath was terrible, with more than 50,000 insurance claims adding up to $740 million.

The vast majority of this sum is made up by the people cashing in on their totaled automobiles. Four-feet-deep water was not something out of the ordinary, so a lot of cars were flooded, dragged over significant distances, bumped into each other or the concrete walls or simply lifted inside their garages, and then gently placed right back on the floor.

Faced with such a large volume of claims - about 40,000 vehicles, 40 percent of them falling into the “total-insurance loss” category - the insurance companies are trying to make something out of the situation. So they’ve gathered them together and are now holding auctions where anybody interested can buy themselves a used car for a fraction of the market price.

And when we say “used,” we mean complete electric system failure and a smell that won’t come out no matter how many scented air fresheners the new owner will hang on the mirror. But even so, these auctions aren’t lacking in customers.

From people who just can’t pass on the occasion to own a Porsche or a Mercedes-Benz for just $10,000 to others who see this as a business opportunity or their only chance of owning a car (the BBC says a small hatchback sold for as little as $250), the lots where the cars are kept are thriving with activity.

Even if the repairs were too expensive to be carried over by the company-owned workshops - which is exactly what labeled them as “totaled” in the first place by the insurance company - India is filled with cheap, private workshops that will quickly make the cars run again. And there are plenty of people who see this as a perfect opportunity to make money: buy the car for nothing, spend another $1,000 to $3,000 on repairs, and then sell it to a used car dealer for a hefty profit. That’s easy-made money.

What that means is that if you don’t want to buy a car that’s had water up to the headlining, you might want to stay away from India’s second-hand automobile market in the following years, unless you know the seller personally or the vehicle’s history. On the other hand, it’s the perfect chance to fulfill that lifetime dream of owning a Jaguar or a Porsche for close to zero money. True, it comes with mildew, rotten smell, and God only knows what other unseen problems, but it’s a real Porsche. Nah, I’d stick with the first advice.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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