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You are watching: How to spot a flood car


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Thousands that cars are damaged or destroyed by floods every year, but don’t assume every those vehicles finish up in a junkyard.

Some room repaired and resold in various other parts the the nation without the the person who lives being aware of the car’s waterlogged history. In fact, Carfax claims there are 378,000 submarine cars earlier on the roads, and it approximates that as numerous as 212,000 cars may have been damaged in Hurricane Ida.

The an essential takeaway is the you have to be vigilant when buying a used car, even if you don’t live close to a timeless storm area. That’s because flood-damaged car are often transported well beyond their original region after major storms to areas where consumers may be less aware of the warning signs to look at for.


Water can damage electronics, lubricants, and mechanical systems. It may take months or years, however corrosion can discover its means to the car’s crucial electronics, including airbag controllers. Consumers should carefully examine anyused carbefore purchase one (or pay a mechanic to do it).


Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, john Ibbotson, says to protect against vehicles with indications of deep-water exposure “even if a vehicle looks acceptable and may be working as soon as you inspect it.” That’s since the long-term impacts of water damage can haunt buyers for the life the the car.

Too often, once an insurance agency declares a flood-damaged car a complete loss, that info isn’t connected to potential buyers. As soon as a flood car is totaled, it’s supposed to get a brand-new title, referred to as a rescue title. Those titles room usually plainly significant (known together being “branded”) with the word “salvage” or “flood.” In part states, this warning is shown on the title as an obscure letter or number code.

Totaled cars are commonly sold in ~ a rescue auction to junkyards and also vehicle rebuilders. Reselling them come consumers might be legitimate if the flood damages is expose on the title. Those “salvage title” cars can’t be registered until important repairs space made and the automobile is reinspected by officials. Then the auto is given a “rebuilt” title, which allows it to be registered for consumer use.

But as customer Reports found years back inan investigation of rebuilt wrecks, part flood-damaged vehicles reappear through a clean title. Be specifically wary of any type of used auto being readily available with a “lost” title or with just a bill of sale.


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Water can get into the electric system, causing much more damage than might be visible on an initial inspection.

One valuable online device for auto shoppers is the nationwide Motor car Title info System, which helps consumers operation background checks. This system aims to crack under on the practice of “title washing,” as soon as cars that have actually been totaled (or stolen) obtain clean new titles in says with lax regulations.

However, if the vehicle’s owner no have substantial insurance coverage at the time of the flooding or the repair bill didn’t exceed a particular level, the car might not get a salvage or branded location at all. Over there are just a couple of states that market a “flood” title, which requires a background of any type of flood damage.

Carfax provides a cost-free flood damages checkin addition to the vehicle history reports it sells. These checks present the “possibility of overwhelming damage” based on area background and the registered resolve for the auto at the time, and also whether the vehicle’s title shows a reported overwhelming history.

For a straightforward check, the national Insurance Crime office offersVINCheck, a cost-free service the searches vehicle identification numbers, although the doesn’t use as countless data sources as part paid providers do.

Of course, vehicle background reports are not all-inclusive and are no guarantee the a vehicle is problem-free, however they’re a valued aid in screening potential cars. Ultimately, adetailed investigate is a consumer’s ideal protection.


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Chasing the gremlins caused by water damages can be comprehensive and high-quality process.
Photo: Mel Yu

How come Spot a Flood-Damaged Car


Water damages can be hard to detect, however Consumer Reports claims you need to look for some telltale signs.

Inspect the carpets
to view whether they present signs of having been waterlogged, such together smelling musty or having actually caked-on mud. Brand-new carpets in an older car may be one more red flag.Check the seat-mounting screws to watch whether there’s any evidence that they were removed. To dried the carpets effectively, the seats need to be removed and possibly even replaced.Inspect the lights. A clearly shows waterline might still display on the lens or reflector.Inspect the difficult-to-clean places,such together gaps in between panels in the trunk and also under the hood, for mud and also debris.Look on the bottom edges of brackets or panels, whereby grime wouldn’t clear up usually.Look in ~ the heads of any unpainted, exposed screws under the dashboard. Bare metal will display signs of rust in submarine cars.Check to see whether the rubber drainpipe plugs under the car and on the bottom the doors look as if they have been gotten rid of recently. That may have been excellent to drainpipe floodwater.

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If you’re indigenous an area impacted by a flood and also have a car that no damaged, be mindful that buyers can suspect that was. Have a mechanic check your car before you put it up because that sale so the you can existing potential buyers through a clean invoice of health.


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