Should I Buy a Car That Has Had Flood Damage?

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Floods, like other natural disasters, can create huge damage to vehicles. A flood-damaged vehicle is one that has been completely or partially submerged in water to the extent that its body, transmission, engine, and other mechanical component parts have been damaged. If the vehicle is so damaged and no longer operable, the insurance company of the driver will settle the claim by buying the vehicle and selling it as “salvage” at an auto auction. 

However, there are also fraudulent and unscrupulous car dealers who buy vehicles with flood damage, dry and clean them, but still leave lots of hidden flood damage. After this, they bring the vehicles to states that are unaffected by the flood and sell them as used vehicles to unwary buyers. They will not disclose the damage on the vehicle’s title as they are required. When this is done, it is a crime called “title washing.”

A car that has had flood damage can still be sold at a very low price. But should you buy one? If you are wondering if it’s worth buying a car that has had flood damage, read on as we are going to tell you more about it. 

Should You Buy a Flood-Damaged Car?

A good car dealer can restore a flood-damaged car, making it look almost new. However, do not let the good looks of a car fool you. It’s because there are a lot of risks that come with buying a flood-damaged car. Well, it does not make it a bad buy, either. If you are thinking of gambling on a car with a water history, there are some things you need to consider. 

How deeply was the vehicle submerged?

If the vehicle was submerged in water that was not deep enough to wreak havoc with the electronics, the vehicle might end up with rust and corrosion, but it is not condemned for major operational issues. However, if the car is submerged in deep floodwater, even if you do not see any electrical damage now, there could be danger down the road. 

How long was the vehicle submerged in water?

You also need to take note of how much time the car spent submerged. Keep in mind that the longer it remained submerged, the greater the damage. 

What kind of water flooded the car?

It is also important to know the kind of water that flooded the vehicle. If it’s saltwater, then corrosion will occur more aggressively compared to freshwater. 

Does the vehicle’s title carry a “Flood” or “Salvage” stamp?

If the car has a flood or salvage stamp, then an insurance company, a bank, or a previous owner, at one time, considered it to be irreparable. Therefore, unless a major effort has been made on repairs, you can expect problems to arise. 

A cheap, flood-damaged car can be a good buy if you are only looking for short-term use of a car. For example, if you are a recent college graduate who needs a car to get to job interviews but plans to buy a new car after being employed, then you can gamble on a flood-damaged car. It is also great for people who live in the north and spend winters in warmer climates, as they can leave a flood-damaged car at their southern home for the summers. These types of cars are also popular among car enthusiasts who can rebuild them with new parts. 

Keep in mind that any car that has been subjected to water should be sold well below market value. It can only be sold at a higher price if the dealership can prove extensive restoration. After all, buying a flood-damaged car is assuming a substantial financial risk that major repairs would arise. If you plan to buy a flood-damaged car, do not pay more for the car than you’re willing to pay if the worst thing happens. And remember that when a car is flooded, the manufacturer’s warranty is voided. 

If you are searching for a cheap car, there are many other options out there. It is still better to move away from choosing flood-damaged cars to prevent the hassle and stress in the future. 

How to Spot a Car that Has Had Flood Damage

a flooded street with cars

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are fraudulent people who will sell a flood-damaged car without letting anyone know about its real condition or that it has been flooded. If you are buying a car and it does not have a history report, you need to rely on some clues to know if it is flood-damaged. Here are some of the things you can look for:

Check if there are any unusual odors inside the car

If there are musty or moldy odors inside the car, these are signs of mildew buildup from prolonged exposure to water. You also need to beware of the strong smell of air freshener or cleaning solution, as it may point to the seller trying to conceal a bad odor in the car. You can also try running the air conditioner and see if there’s a moldy smell coming from the vents. 

Look at the carpeting and check for any discoloration

If there are large stains or differences in color between the upper and lower upholstery sections, these may indicate that water stood in the car. Also, a used car that has brand-new upholstery can be a warning sign. The seller might have tried to remove the flood-damaged upholstery completely.

Check for any exterior signs of water buildup

Some of the signs of exterior water buildup are fogging inside the headlamps or taillights and damp or muddy parts where water naturally pools, like overhangs inside the wheel well. You may also notice a water line in the engine compartment or the trunk, which indicates that the car sat in standing water. 

See if there is any corrosion and peeling on the undercarriage

This is important to check because you won’t find these things on a newer vehicle. 

Inspect if there’s any dirt buildup in unusual areas of the car

If there’s dirt buildup in areas around the seat tracks or the upper carpeting under the glove compartment, it can also be a sign that the car has been flooded. Aside from this, you can also have an independent mechanic check the car and look for grit or caked mud in alternator crevices, around the small recesses of starter motors, behind wiring harnesses, and other parts. 

Conclusion

Purchasing a flood-damaged car comes with a lot of risks. Therefore, as much as possible, do not buy one, no matter how attractive the price might seem. They are almost always troubling at some point, and buying one could prove to be a bad investment. Well, unless you are a car enthusiast who’s looking for a cheap car that you can experiment with. We hope this article helped you learn more about flood-damaged cars. 

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