Avoiding Flood Damaged Cars

Spotting Flood Damaged Vehicles

Depending on the history of the car you want to buy and where you are located, vehicle flood damage may be more or less likely. On this page, you'll find some good steps to take to ensure that you are not purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle.

Always Order a VIN Check

Flood damaged vehicles are supposed to be reported. If the car you're interested in has been officially declared a flood-damaged vehicle, that information should show up when you order a Vehicle History Report, also known as a vehicle identification number (VIN ) check, VIN report, or vehicle history report (VHR).

Water + Engine = Problem

In this age of electrical engines, today's cars are more vulnerable than ever to flooding. It doesn't take much water inside a vehicle to permanently damage the car's electrical components and ultimately, the engine.

Unfortunately, most of us lack the mechanical know-how to recognize engine problems. It's a reality that gives sellers of flood-damaged vehicles the upper hand. They know that engine problems are easier to conceal than a car's exterior.

What to Look For in a Flood-Damaged Car

Fortunately, you don't have to be a certified mechanic to recognize the prognostic signs of a flood-damaged vehicle. All it takes is heightened awareness and some common sense.

When car shopping, become highly suspicious if you see:

  • New upholstery in a used vehicle or upholstery that doesn't match the carpeting.
  • Rust in high places like door hinges and trunk latches.
  • Rust under the gas and brake pedals.
  • Silt or mud under the seats or in the glove compartment.
  • Beads of water in the dome light.
  • Damp floor carpeting.

Other measures to prevent yourself from purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle include:

  • Smelling inside the vehicle. A musty or moldy smell indicates trouble.
  • Bending wires underneath the dashboard. After drying, wet wires become brittle as twigs.
  • Turning on the ignition and making sure all dashboard warning and accessory lights properly illuminate.
  • Testing the air conditioning, heater, windshield wipers, radio, and turn signals several times.
  • Making sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the dashboard matches the VIN on the door jamb.

It is also a good idea to:

  • Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle.
  • Order a Vehicle History Report, also known as a VIN check or VIN report.

Be Sure to Look Under the Hood

Warnings against purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle may seem extremely obvious, yet the challenge is to know when you're being sold a dud vehicle. In the rippling wake of Hurricane Katrina and several major Midwest floods, some unscrupulous car sellers have become shockingly skilled at concealing the damage to these vehicles. New paint and new carpeting is all it takes to transform one of these vehicles into literally looking like a well-oiled machine.

If you're still unsure of what you're looking for, it may be a good idea to take the car to a mechanic and get their professional opinion.

If You Become Suspicious of Flood Damage

Most flood-damaged cars carry low-price tags. Despite this enticement, walk away if you suspect even a hint of deception from the seller. Otherwise, the money you save on the purchase will quickly go towards costly repairs.

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