Many automobile shoppers nothing realize just exactly how much damage floodwaters execute to a vehicle. That represents a problem—not simply to the owner of a vehicle or van that falls victim come a catastrophic flood, but to prospective buyers unaware that the vehicle’s history.

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The risk of flooded vehicles ~ above the market affects everyone looking for a offered car, and also not simply those in the prompt vicinity that a flood. ~ Hurricanes Katrina and also Sandy, because that example, flooded cars popped up because that sale across the country. It’s a clever bet that the very same will occur once the waters Hurricane Florence dumped ~ above the Carolinas recede, too.

The best method to defend yourself native unscrupulous—or also unknowing—dealers is to educate yourself on just how to point out the tell-tale indications of flood damage.


Flooded auto in parking lot. Picture via Flickr user waitscm/CC2.0

Run the numbers

It sounds apparent that friend should examine the vehicle’s background to look because that repairs, but it’s still critical step. Operation the VIN (vehicle identification number) v Carfax, which will certainly tell you, because that free, if a car has remained in a flood. If you acquire a optimistic result, you deserve to stop v your investigation, since you don’t desire that car.

You can’t just stop there if the automobile you"re looking at isn"t significant by Carfax, however. While certified dealer are forced to disclose overwhelming damage, there exist enough loopholes in the device that part cars for sure sneak through. For example, if a automobile was insured at the moment the flood occurred, the damages would practically definitely be reported. However, that is less complicated to skip the requisite report if repairing the vehicle without the insurance company’s oversight.

It may likewise be worth calling a dealership to ask around service documents for the car if it"s a more recent model. Most automakers link service records in between dealerships. While privacy legislations prevent dealers from giving out a ahead owner"s an individual details, the records may indicate signs the flood damage or repair. 

Check the electric system

Check every little thing from electric wiring to just how well each device works. Don’t usage corrosion on a battery terminal as an indicator, due to the fact that that’s a reasonably common phenomenon anyway. If you watch corrosion forming on any of the various other wiring top top the car, however, take that as a negative sign.

Even if girlfriend don’t watch physical evidence of corrosion, you must attempt to usage every solitary system on the car. Begin with the basics, choose the radio, the revolve signals, and also the windshield wipers. Condensation in the headlights isn’t a identify sign, yet it’s one much more point come remember together you look end the vehicle.

Keep in mental that many electrical difficulties caused through floods nothing manifest us immediately, or even consistently. A faulty brake light, because that example, can only become evident under specific circumstances.

If every single electrical items works, that a great sign, however not however a conclusive piece of evidence.

Carefully check the body because that rust

Some cars may have minor rust in a couple of locations anyway. That’s no a major warning authorize in and of itself. Rather, look in ~ the underside the the hood, within the doors, and in the trunk. If friend can, lift part of the interior carpet and look for rust top top the floor, or top top the bolts holding the seats down. Rust in any of these locations is a proverbial flashing red light.

And look for sand and dirt in places people don’t generally clean

Look inside the wheel wells. If you deserve to see sand and dirt gathered in ~ a continuous level, practically like a dust ring in a filthy bathtub, you have a good reason to believe the vehicle was sit in overwhelming waters. Do the very same with the exhaust underneath the car.

If friend can, with underneath the car and also see if yes sir sand on the suspension. All over that water deserve to pool is also worth investigating, such as the spare tires well in the trunk, or under the seats.



2013 Jeep grand Cherokee

Be suspicious of an interior that’s as well clean

It should go without saying that if any component of the inner is wet, it is a problem. Similarly, if you check out mud or sand in the trunk, or top top the carpet your job is done, and also the automobile is most likely a junker. Even without mud, the cardboard lining to which the headliner is attached might warp if that submerged. Look because that anything that resembles an old textbook after a midnight coffee spill.

Many world consider a musky smell in the automobile to be one more obvious sign, but modern detailing devices can remove many odors. One odorless auto isn’t the equivalent of a clean bill of health.

Instead, watch for an ext subtle issues, choose an internal that’s practically too clean. If the automobile was freshly reupholstered, through a brand-new headliner, carpet, or chair covers, it might be proof of flood damage repair.

Go because that a check drive

If everything checks out sensibly well, the time to walk for a check drive. Listen for noþeles abnormal. A grind noise native the brakes or steering, or a squeak end bumps might not it is in proof the a flood on the own, however if noises begin coming indigenous multiple places, it might be time come look for a various car.

Work your means up to closely checking more advanced things like the anti-lock braking system, which counts on sensors that won’t job-related if their wires space corroded. The brake pedal must pulse against your foot and prevent the wheels from skidding if you run an “emergency stop” by pressing difficult on the brake pedal.

If she unsure at all, get a pre-purchase inspection

For a usually fee, almost every mechanic or dealership will perform what"s referred to as a pre-purchase inspection, or PPI. Having actually one of this performed on any type of car, even one you"re i was sure hasn"t invested some time underwater, is generally a great idea.

A experienced mechanic has access to a lift and also can an ext easily inspect every nook and also cranny the the car, front come back. That or she additionally knows how to point out potential troubles much much more easily than the median person. A an excellent mechanic deserve to look end the auto in about an hour; think that the inspection fee as peace of mind.

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If friend can, look for a specialist—someone that works exclusively on the brand or comparable models.