How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Used Car

When you’re buying a used car, you want to make sure you know what’s happened to the vehicle during the time it spent with previous owners. One thing you might not think to check for is whether or not the used car has any water damage from a flood or accident. A significant contributor to flood cars are natural events like the recent Hurricane Sandy, or heavy rainfalls that cause rivers and lakes to overflow. When this happens, cars are often left sitting in high water for days, which could result in serious damage to the vehicle and its internal components, especially if they haven’t been properly replaced or repaired.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to make sure you aren’t buying a flood-damaged used car.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Smell for odours: It’s hard to get the smell of musty carpets and water-logged seat padding out of a car. If you detect an odour, this could be a good indication that stagnant water has sat in the car for a considerable amount of time. On the other hand, if the car is heavily scented with a strong air freshener or cleaner, then you should always be cautious as this could be masking something.
  • Investigate the interior: Pull back the carpets to look for lingering mud, dirt and water stains. You should also check the trunk for water lines, leftover silt or rust. If the carpets and upholstery appear as though they’ve been replaced recently or look too new for an older car model, this could be another red flag.
  • Look for condensation: Check the dashboard for condensation as there could be moisture lingering in the instrument panels. Water can fry your vehicle’s accessories so you’ll also want to test all of these – dashboard lights, wipers, signal lights, radio, heater, air conditioner and any other switches or options – to make sure they are all in working order.
  • Take a closer look at the little details: Have a look around the car and scrutinize the hard to reach areas and nooks and crannies. Keep an eye out for dried mud, salt stains, rusted bolts, brittle wiring or even mould in areas that never completely dried out.
  • Use CARPROOF’s Flood Damage Check: Our Free Flood Damage Check will tell you if your used vehicle has ever sustained water damage in the United States. We search our extensive database in the U.S. to look for flood titles and storm area registration.
  • Buy a complete CARPROOF report: Ordering a full CARPROOF vehicle history report will provide you with relevant and important information about the history of the vehicle, including accident information, registration details, information about liens registered against the vehicle in certain provinces and/or territories in Canada depending on the report you purchase, and U.S. history.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection: Take your vehicle to a licensed mechanic for a thorough pre-purchase inspection. This inspection will determine the cosmetic, mechanical and safety condition of the car and can let you know if there is any water damage internally. This is important because while the car may seem perfect on the outside, saltwater or water damage can have lingering effects on the car’s braking, steering and electrical system. It can take months for this corrosive damage to occur so while the car may be functioning just fine during your test drive, down the road you could run into serious problems. Your mechanic will be able to let you know what’s going on underneath the hood so you don’t have any surprises after you’ve purchased the car.

By following the above tips, you can avoid purchasing a flood-damaged car and you’ll be able to buy your next used car with full peace of mind.