What to do with a Flooded Car

By The Car Coach Lauren Fix

What to do if your car is flooded? Can you drive it? What kind of damage? Lauren Fix discusses your options and what to do.

Flood-damaged cars are something that most of us don’t think about much. 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 sat in fields and were filled with E. coli and mold from the sewage and water. 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, which can cause other cars to collide with you.
  • If you are a part of an accident, airbags may NOT deploy.
  • Seat belts don’t function properly.
  • Anti-lock brakes don’t work.
  • The cars are complete scrap.
  • You are now a part of a potential accident.
  • Even worse, the health risk is great for yourself and anyone that rides in this car.

These vehicles aren’t safe on the roads. Sadly there are 650,000 plus cars that have been damaged.

Do These Cars Really get 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 find their way to an auction or be sent to your state. This 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 from private sellers but beware of “curbstoners” – people who sell numerous cars claiming to be private sellers and therefore avoid basic government oversight and no Lemon Law coverage.
  • Avoid auctions unless you are experienced with them.
  • Check to ensure the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) match the door sticker with the dashboard tag.
  • Carefully inspect the inside of the car. Look for watermarks on door panels, radiators, wheel wells, and seat cushions.
  • Look for rust in 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 has a paper air filter, check it – if it has water stains, the vehicle has likely been flooded.
  • Ask the seller if the vehicle has had flood damage. It 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 vehicles are reported to these agencies. Essential to have a certified ASE technician inspect the car before you make an offer.

The Bottom Line

Best have an automotive technician look over the car before purchase. Also, look on the FBI flood car site to see if the VIN is a match. If you are a victim of a flood-damaged car, the car should be scrapped in most cases.

If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer.

Watch the video review. If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer.

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.

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