How Can You Spot A Flood Damaged Car?

September 24, 2018

After Hurricane Florence you may find yourself in need of a car to replace one that was damaged in the hurricane. Unfortunately there may be people out there trying to take advantage of vulnerable people in the wake of the storm by trying to sell cars that could have been flood damaged. Experts at have determined that “any car where floodwater rose above its floor is considered “totaled”. Any time water moves above the floor the car's internal components, including the engine can become compromised. We want to give you some tips to help you avoid getting scammed by car salesmen. 

We have put together this list of 8 ways to spot a car that could have flood damage.

  • Check the Vehicle Identification Number – You can check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with CarFax, Experian’s Auto Check, or the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VinCheck before making any used vehicle purchases. This will provide you with the vehicle’s full history and possibly report whether the vehicle was ever reported as flood damaged or given a salvage title. You can also see if the car came from a recently flooded area. Cars that have recently been relocated from flooded areas should be deemed suspicious.
  • Thoroughly inspect the interior of the car – A musty or mildew odor is a clear sign that the car has been in flood water according to Carfax. Check for dirt build-up in unusual places such as under the dashboard. AAA also recommends pulling back carpeting to check for stains. You can also check inside the glove box or between seats for debris, mold, or slime. Some use car sellers could try to conceal the smell and appearance by upgrading the interior fabric or using extensive car deodorizer. If the rest of the vehicle appears to have serious wear and tear but the interior is completely replaced, this should be a red flag.
  • Check for moisture in the lights – When examining the car, check for a visible water line that may still appear on the lens or reflector. Moisture beads and fog can build up in lights that have experienced flooding and it is hard to remove by those attempting to sell flooded cars.
  • Investigate wiring – The National Automobile Dealers Association advises consumers check “electrical wiring for rusty components, water residue, or suspicious corrosion.”
  • Review if rubber drain plugs were removed – You can check the rubber drain plugs – located under the vehicle and under doors – and if they appear to have been recently removed that should raise suspicious that they were removed to drain flood water.
  • Look for rust under the vehicle – When looking underneath the vehicle seeing rust is a good way to tell if the vehicle spent time in flood water. “Corrosion is uncommon in new vehicles and those that are owned and operated in warmer climate areas.” The AAA said in a statement made to the press.
  • Take a test drive – When you turn the ignition, listen for unexpected sounds, use your eyes and nose to see if smoke appears anywhere. Be sure all dashboard lights come on, including the back lighting, and check headlights, turn signals, and emergency blinkers. Turn on the air conditioning, wipers, and any charging ports to be sure they work as expected. Don’t forget to listen to the radio: static-plagued or distorted audio, or no audio at all could be a result of water damage.
  • Have a mechanic you trust examine the vehicle – Many experts suggest having a trusted car expert or mechanic give a second opinion about the state of the vehicle for sale. They may be able to notice things that you overlooked.