Buyer Beware: Flood-Damaged Cars Are Coming

·2 min read

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Don’t get suckered…

Thanks to the massive flooding caused by Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, a wave of flood-damaged cars will be hitting the market, with some undoubtedly already posted on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. This is always a concern after widespread flooding, but what’s different this time is the unquenchable demand for used cars, thanks in large part to the chip shortage holding up new car production. Scammers see opportunity in the two crises, which is bad news for anyone looking to buy a used vehicle.

See some interesting cars discovered underwater here.

Flood-damaged cars can have problems for years afterward. Once water gets into every nook and cranny, it can cause problems from electrical shortages to corrosion in the body. Correcting the issues of a vehicle which has been submerged in water is possible, but it might be cost preventative. To make shoppers less suspicious, scammers will often price flood-damaged vehicles for well under market value, if the car were in good condition. You should automatically be suspicious of a deal which seems too good to be true.

There are many ways to tell if a car possibly has flood damage. One telltale sign is if new carpeting has been installed. While there might be a good explanation for this having been done in a classic car, newer vehicles should still have the factory carpeting. The same thing goes for cloth upholstery.

Whenever you inspect a used car in person, turn on all the accessories to ensure they work. This not only lets you know if there are features which need to be fixed, it can uncover big electrical problems caused by flooding.

A flooded car will have lingering smells, usually moldy or musty. Sellers try to cover them up by placing numerous air fresheners inside, spraying in fragrances, etc.

As funny as it sounds, water or water vapor present in odd places is another sign some people might not process. This can include water in the gauges, headlights/taillights, and even in spare tire compartment in the trunk.

Dirt buildup in odd places is another indication of flooding. This can include dirt in the seat tracks, door panels/handles, under the glovebox, under the carpeting in the trunk, and in the nooks and crannies of the engine compartment.

Washed titles won’t show that a car has flood damage or is salvaged. You can check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System to confirm the physical title you’re being presented with is legitimate. It pays to be thorough when inspecting a used car, plus it’s a good idea to have a mechanic do a pre-sale inspection before you hand over any money.

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