Flood Car | What to Do and Damage – Buyer Beware

By Lauren Fix, Car Coach Reports

Flood-damaged cars are something that most of us don’t think about when purchasing a used vehicle. Every time a hurricane or flood impacts an area of the country, though, automobiles are damaged. Sadly many are not destroyed by insurance companies.

These vehicles are not safe! Many are filled with E-coli and mold from the sewage and water. Saltwater does even more damage to vehicles. What is unreal is how many different ways this affects us all.

If you were fooled into buying one of these cars:

  • There is no warranty from the manufacturer due to water damage!
  • Many of these vehicles stop in the middle of the road unexpectedly, causing other cars to collide with you!
  • If you are in an accident, the airbags may NOT deploy!
  • Seat belts don’t function properly!
  • Anti-lock brakes don’t work!
  • The cars are complete SCRAP!
  • And you are now a part of a potential accident.
  • The health risks that you are creating for yourself and anyone that rides in this car could be many.

Credit: Don Becker, USGS

These vehicles aren’t safe on the roads, and sadly there are over 1 million cars, trucks, and SUVs that have been damaged.

Do these cars really make it into the marketplace?

Oh, yes, they do!

One insurance company recently settled a $40 million lawsuit when it was disclosed that the insurer had dumped almost 30,000 totaled cars at auction without bothering to have them retitled as salvage vehicles.

Many of the vehicles will be shredded into little metallic pieces. However, others will end in auctions or somehow in up in your state. This activity is called washing titles. Not all states print on the title what happened to that auto. If in doubt – walk away from the deal!

Tips to avoid buying flooded cars:

  • First, buy from reputable dealers.
  • You can find great vehicles to buy from private sellers but beware of “curbstoners” – people who sell numerous cars claiming to be private sellers and therefore avoid necessary government oversight and no Lemon Law coverage.
  • Avoid auctions – unless you are experienced with them.
  • Check to ensure the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) match on the door sticker and the dashboard tag.
  • Carefully inspect the inside of the car and look for watermarks on door panels, radiators, wheel wells, and seat cushions.
  • Look for rust on unusual places like door hinges, hood springs, under dash brackets, and trunk latches.
  • Look for water and moisture inside exterior lighting.
  • Beware of cars with new or mismatched upholstery.
  • If the car uses a paper air filter, check it – if it has water stains, it has likely seen a flood.
  • Ask the seller if the vehicle has had flood damage – sounds simple, but answers like “not to the best of my knowledge” or “the previous owner didn’t tell me of any flood damage” are red flags. Get the answer in writing with the bill of sale.
  • Ask to see the title – if it is not stamped “flood” or “salvage,” get the car’s history through online sources to find out if this vehicle has come from a recently or previously flooded area of the country.
  • Only 10-15 percent of flooded cars are reported to these agencies, so have a certified ASE technician inspect the vehicle before you make an offer.

Buyer beware when it comes to a previously flooded vehicle.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host.  A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.   

Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak. 

Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.  

Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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