Flood damaged vehicles are supposed to be reported. If the car you’re interested in has been officially declared a flood-damaged vehicle, that information should show up when you order an Auto History Report, or also known as a VIN Check or VIN Report.
Be Sure to Look Under the Hood
Warnings against purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle seem as obvious as being told to avoid rubbing the snouts of large, nesting alligators. Yet in the rippling wake of Hurricane Katrina and several major Midwest floods, some unscrupulous car sellers have become shockingly skilled at concealing the damage to these vehicles. New paint and new carpeting is all it takes to abracadabra one of these vehicles into literally looking like a well-oiled machine.
Consequently, unsuspecting buyers learn very quickly there’s a heavy dose of truth in the adage, “Looks can be deceiving.” Within days of driving the vehicle off the lot, they discover they’ve got themselves a lemon. Or, in a flood-damaged vehicle’s case, lemonade.
Water + Engine = Problem
In this age of electrical engines, today’s cars are more vulnerable than ever to flooding. It doesn’t take much water inside a vehicle to permanently damage the car’s electrical components and ultimately, the engine.
Unfortunately, most of us lack the mechanical know-how to recognize engine problems. It’s a reality that gives sellers of flood-damaged vehicles the upper hand. For they know that engine problems are easier to conceal than a car’s exterior.
What to Look For
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a certified mechanic to recognize the prognostic signs of a flood-damaged vehicle. All it takes is heightened awareness and some common sense.
When car shopping, become highly suspicious if you see:
- New upholstery in a used vehicle. Or upholstery that doesn’t match the carpeting.
- Rust in high places like door hinges and trunk latches.
- Rust under the gas and brake pedals.
- Silt or mud under the seats or in the glove compartment.
- Beads of water in the dome light.
- Damp floor carpeting.
Other preventive measures include:
- Sniffing inside the vehicle. A musty or moldy smell indicates trouble.
- Bending wires underneath the dashboard. After drying, wet wires become brittle as twigs.
- Turning on the ignition and making sure all dashboard warning and accessory lights properly illuminate.
- Testing the air conditioning, heater, windshield wipers, radio and turn signals several times.
- Making sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the dashboard matches the VIN on the door jamb.
Common sense measures include:
- Having a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle.
- Ordering an Auto History Report, or also known as a VIN Check or VIN Report.
If You Become Suspicious
Most flood-damaged cars carry low-price tags. Despite this enticement, walk away if you suspect even a hint of chicanery. Otherwise, the money you save on the purchase will quickly go towards costly repairs.