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Car Buying Tips: How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car

Car Buying Tips: How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car

Submitted by: Faye

Now that you have cleaned up and improved your credit score, you are ready to purchase your new car! How exciting! I can just see you now riding in that new convertible, the wind blowing through your hair, sunglasses in place, enjoying the first days of Spring. All is good in your world as you breeze down the road. Wait a minute!!! What’s that noise? Why is the car coming to a rolling stop as you press on the gas pedal?? What is wrong with my new car??? OH NO!!!

No amount of screaming at your mechanic, sad faces or pools of tears will help when he tells you that your new car is flood damaged. Really!!! Flood damaged? How can that be? It had a clean title and is hundreds of miles from the recent flood ravaged areas. It happens all day, every day.

Just from Hurricane Harvey alone it is estimated that 500,000 to one million cars were flood damaged. A lot of these cars have been shipped to resale markets in other states, re-registered with clean titles and sold to people who knew nothing of the damage. These cars have a variety of problems, so make sure you know what you are getting before you buy.

How do you spot these cleaned up cars? Here’s a list of things to look for from AAA:

  1. Look for water markings in the engine compartment, interior and trunk.
  2. Smell for mildew or for deodorizer that may be masking a stale smell.
  3. Test all electrical systems, including power seats and exterior mirrors.
  4. Make sure that all lights on the instrument panel are working.
  5. Inspect the floorboard under the carpet for signs of water, silt or rust.
  6. Lift the trunk liner and look for water or mud in the spare tire wheelwell.
  7. Have a certified service technician check the car out.
  8. Buy a vehicle history report through an online service such as CARFAX. (You’ll need the car’s VIN). The detailed report can reveal details such as whether the car had a salvage title in another state.

You may think this can’t happen to you, the care salesman assures you it is clean and has never been in any water. But unless the salesperson is your uncle and you trust him completely, take the extra steps to insure that the new car is what you expect it to be.

I have been driving for over 50 years and I can tell you with great confidence that I know a lot about cars! As Mitch Hedberg once said, “I know a lot about cars, man. I can look at any car’s headlights and tell you exactly which way it is coming”. Me, too!