When you’re in the market for a used car, there’s a lot to consider. A used car is a great investment if you know what to avoid—and what to look for—when you’re shopping around. It can be especially difficult to find the right vehicle after a hurricane, and rainy seasons. This is because an influx of flood-damaged cars can find their way to used car lots. While these vehicles might seem safe to drive, the truth is, they come with a lot of risks.
Reasons why you should avoid flood cars
You may have run across a known flood car during your search. It may have appeared perfectly fine, in running condition, and with little apparent damage. However, just because our eyes can’t see the issues at first, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Here are some reasons why you should avoid flood-damaged cars.
The repairs to fix unseen damage on a flood car can be huge. While a car may look like it runs just fine, the truth is, a lot of hidden damage can be sustained when a vehicle is caught in even just a foot of water. If you consider purchasing a car you know has been in flooding, make sure you factor in the cost of repairs.
Little to no resale value
If you plan to drive your used car for a few years and then trade it in or sell it, you’ll find a flood damage car has virtually no market value. It’s costly to completely restore a vehicle that has sustained water damage. Therefore, the likelihood that you’ll encounter this problem is high as sellers may not want to invest in fixing up a car with a flood or salvage stamp.
Even if you make extensive repairs on a water-damaged vehicle, its safety is probably compromised. In some cases, these kinds of cars have hidden damage that is difficult to spot, such as softened hoses or faulty electrical work.
If you’re considering a car that has been involved in a flood, you should factor in the insurance costs as well. It may cost you more to insure a vehicle that has flood damage, or your car insurance company may be unwilling to insure it at all.
It may be tempting to buy a water-damaged ride with a low price tag but be wary! There’s a reason for that price drop. Here is how you can spot a water-damaged car.
How to spot a water-damaged car
On your search for a used vehicle, you’ll want to make sure you know how to identify signs of a flood-damaged car. Unfortunately, not all sellers know a car has been compromised by water. In some cases, it may not have been disclosed to them. It’s best to prepare to spot the signs yourself.
1. Look for water
Okay, we know it sounds obvious, but it’s important! There are spots where water may appear that can tip you off to a car’s flood-filled past.
- General moisture – Do the seats feel moist? What about the trunk? The carpet should never be damp, even if a seller insists it was just shampooed. Come back another day and check to see if the moisture is still there if that’s the case.
- Mud – Check the glove box and center console for signs of dirt. An abundance of dirt particles is a telltale sign that a car has been in a flood.
- Condensation – Take a look around and see if there’s any condensation on the windows or dashboard. This can be a sign that the car is a flood-damaged vehicle or that it has faulty sealing. You’ll also want to look at all the vehicle’s lights. If there’s condensation inside them, that’s a bad sign.
2. Check the interior
- Give it a sniff – One of the biggest giveaways is something so simple. Your nose knows what’s up – if you smell mold or musk, consider moving on. Perhaps there are a suspicious number of air fresheners taking up the vehicle. Does it really need one by each seat? Some sellers may try to mask the scent of a flood car, so be on the lookout!
- Look for loose fabric – Another sign of water damage is loose fabric. Do you see any areas where the cloth of the seats is clinging in a strange way? Does any of it look loose? An old car’s interior may start to droop with time, but a newer car should not appear this way.
3. Examine the car for rust
A little bit of rust on the outside of a used car isn’t an uncommon sight. In fact, you might be able to repair it. It’s when you start looking outside those normal spots for rust—bottom of doors, fenders, low panels—that you need to be especially careful. Check the undercarriage of the used car for signs of rust, inside the upper wheel wells, and in the trunk.
If you don’t feel comfortable assessing for water damage yourself, you can have a mechanic perform the inspection for you. We hope these telltale signs of a water-damaged car have been helpful for you in your pursuit of the perfect used car.