How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

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Almost Flooded CarHurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, and many people are still recovering. Thousands are now homeless, and even those who are able to continue living in their homes may have to get new vehicles because their vehicles were flooded and destroyed in the storm. According to The Huffington Post, “Six of the leading eight automakers in terms of U.S. sales said on Wednesday that at least 16,000 new vehicles were damaged, and the lion’s share of those will have to be scrapped. Counting cars in consumer hands increases the total loss estimated to at least 266,000 vehicles.”

Those cars that are totaled because of flooding are supposed to get a new title called a salvage title so they can be sold to the junkyard for scrap metal. However, that is, unfortunately, not always the case. Often, those cars are refurbished and put back into circulation. A flood damaged car will have many problems, and you don’t want to be the unlucky person who bought it.

Here are ways you can determine if the used car you are considering buying has been damaged by a flood:

1. Buy through a dealer. Dealers generally run a title’s history to avoid buying and reselling flooded cars. According to Edmunds, “The sale of flood-damaged cars happens most often in private-party sales than on dealer lots.” If you still want to seek out a private party sale for the potential savings, consider ordering your own copy of the title history. This can be done for $7 at National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

2. Smell the car. Some cars that have been flooded, even if they look okay on the outside, never get rid of their musty, moldy smell. If the car has a funk, that may be a sign that this is a flood damaged car. Even if you can’t smell it right away, if you run the heat and air conditioning, you may smell the mildew smell coming out of the vents.

3. Look under the spare tire. In their haste to refurbish the car and get it back on the market, some don’t take the time to remove the spare time and clean underneath. Look for mud, debris and leaves in the spare tire wheel well.

4. Look at the car’s upholstery. If you notice that the upholstery is darker on the bottom and lighter on the top, the seat likely was submerged in water up to where the line demarking the different shades of color is.

5. Look at the lights. Both headlights and brake lights can also offer clues to flooding. Look for moisture build up inside the lights.

6. Take the car to a mechanic. Even if you aren’t worried about flooding, taking the car to a mechanic to have him inspect the vehicle before you buy is always a smart idea.

If you are looking to buy a used car, be aware that there are thousands of cars damaged by Hurricane Sandy that may make their way into the market. Take the proper steps to make sure that you don’t unknowingly buy one of these damaged cars.

(Photo: jwhittox)

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car”

  1. Jim M says:

    Good tip on the ability of a private sale buyer being able to order a title history through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

  2. Jim M says:

    Good tip on the ability of a private sale buyer ordering a copy of the title history through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

  3. Jenny says:

    This is an excellent post because I would have not thought of this. My husband plans on buying a used truck and now we will examine it even more carefully as some of those flooded vehicles are sure to turn up.

  4. Jerry says:

    Would your homeowner’s insurance cover your water damaged car if it’s on your property? Can’t believe the storm will lead to all those cars being scrapped.

  5. mannymacho says:

    We once went to test drive a car (we live in the South) and when my wife started the engine, a huge glob of water spat out from the back of the tailpipe. We were done with that place!

  6. Thomas damon says:

    Were Looking for a reliable car to three in mind 2006 7 or 8
    Toyota and nissan. Weve been stuckso many times it,s hard to
    Choose now don,t want to lose our money . But my wife is sickly
    And needs to go to the doctors regulary. She has medical
    Problems . So we cant wait to long .i have been checking out
    Alot .and we thankyou so much for your infoit will come in very
    Handy . P.s congradulations on your newbaby girl.
    God bless you and your family.
    Oh yeh ford of port richyfl. Tryed to also
    They tryed to sell us a car with no.warranty but thankGod my father
    Was a mechanic. When we questioned them about the carfax in there
    156 point inspection. They took the car back .
    Not to mention that they kept us waiting for 8 hr,s and my wife is a
    Diabetic . And had not eaten all that time .only to have tack back
    The car the next day.

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