How to avoid buying a water-damaged car Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make better financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct your own research and compare information for free to help you make sound financial decisions. Bankrate has agreements with issuers, including but not restricted to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The offers that appear on this site are from companies that compensate us. This compensation can affect the way and when products are featured on the site, such as for instance, the order in which they be listed within the categories of listing in the event that they are not permitted by law. This applies to our loans, mortgages,, and other home lending products. However, this compensation will not influence the content we publish or the reviews appear on this website. We do not include the entire universe of businesses or financial deals that might be available to you. Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty images
5 min read Published June 22, 2022
Written by Mia Taylor Written by Contributing Writer Mia Taylor is a contributor to Bankrate and an award-winning journalist who has two decades of experience and worked as a staff reporter or contributor for some of the nation’s leading newspapers and websites including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Diego Union-Tribune, TheStreet, MSN and Credit.com. The article was edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since the beginning of 2021. They are dedicated to helping readers gain the confidence to take control of their finances through providing precise, well-researched, and well-researched data that break down complex topics into manageable bites. The Bankrate promise
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We receive compensation for the placement of sponsored products andservices or through you clicking specific links on our site. Therefore, this compensation may impact how, where and in what order the products are listed within categories, unless it is prohibited by law regarding our mortgages, home equity and other home loan products. Other factors, such as our own rules for our website and whether or not a product is offered in the area you reside in or is within your self-selected credit score range can also impact the manner in which products are featured on this website. While we strive to provide a wide range offers, Bankrate does not include details about every credit or financial product or service. Automobile buyers across the United States can experience the aftereffects of devastating floods by knowingly buying water-damaged cars. Used and new cars damaged by major flood events like Ida in 2021. Ida from 2021 could find their way to the market following the storm. Carfax information suggests that as many as 212,000 vehicles could have been damaged by the storm Ida. If flood-damaged cars are sold, unsuspecting buyers often face expensive electrical and mechanical problems which surface several months later. Even if you don’t live in an area where flooding is common you could still purchase a car that has water damage. Carfax research shows that vehicles that have been damaged by water are present across all states, which means buyers from coast to coast are in danger of buying damaged by flooding. How do you tell if a car has water damage Damaged cars from water can be difficult to recognize. They are usually clean and can even run smoothly for a while. However, eventually, you are likely to encounter issues as cars that have been flooded decay from the inside out. Here are some of the signs that a car may be damaged by water A musty smell A car’s interior that has been damaged by water automobiles will typically smell musty. Sellers who are not reputable may attempt to cover up the smell using strong air fresheners, however it isn’t easy to completely rid a car of a musty smell. One way to test the car’s smell is to be inside the vehicle and close the windows. Carpets that are damp or moist: Water damage can collect in places you don’t immediately be able to see, like under carpeting. Feel the carpets throughout the car and pat them to locate any potential moisture buildup. Examine the trunk too taking off the spare tire to check for any water underneath it. Stained or mismatched upholstery and carpeting: Another sign of water damage is a car that has stained or loose upholstery and carpeting. Check for brown, blotchy streaks, which are indicators for water-related damage. In the course of inspections, compare flooring carpeting with the upholstery on the doors and the roof. All of them should appear like they are of the same quality and age. Rust: A vehicle with water damage might have rust around the doors, in the hood, or even beneath the dashboard. Screws, hinges for doors, trunk latches and even door handles may also show signs of rusting. Brittle wires: Check under the dashboard if you believe the car might have water damage. Brittle wires could be a sign that your vehicle is a victim of any water-related event or other type. Fog or water beads: If a vehicle’s interior lights instruments, exterior lights, or lights look foggy or have water beads within them, consider it a warning sign that the vehicle could be suffering from water damage. Silt or mud buildup: During flood events specifically, water can transport mud and dirt into vehicles. After the flood has gone, the dirt will remain. The most common areas to look for mud and silt include the glove compartment, trunk underneath the dashboard and below seats. 4 tips to avoid buying the car that has been flooded. If you are concerned that your car may be flooded or be damaged by flooding or water it is important to do research and determine whether your intuition is right. There are a variety of tools to assist you in getting to the bottom of this important question, as well as warning signs to look out for. 1. Check the history of your vehicle A vehicle history report can reveal issues with a car before you buy. The most obvious sign of a water-damaged car will be one identified as an example. Departments of motor vehicles need permanent title marks on vehicles which have been severely destroyed by floods. If the vehicle was declared to be totally damaged, it is expected to receive a new title entirely that’s branded “salvage” as well as “flood.” Based on the state, however, this fact may be made clear by a numerical code. Carfax and Experian provide tools for flood checks which allow users to run a free check on the past of a car. They require the VIN of the car in question. When looking through a car’s history, keep your eye out for cars that come from areas that have been damaged by floods. The National Insurance Crime Bureau also provides free online VIN checks that allow users to discover if a car has been declared salvaged. You should examine a car’s history report to see if there is any indication that the vehicle has been sold numerous times in a short period of time. Be wary of any history that includes buyers in multiple states. This could be an indication of what’s known as car “title washing,”” when unscrupulous sellers alter the title of cars repeatedly in order to hide its history. 2. Examine for signs of water damage Cars that are submerged by water usually have evident signs, but they may be subtle particularly if the car was cleaned prior to sale. Pay attention to the smell of mold or musty, including those coming out of the control panel for the temperature. Take note of any stains you see on the car’s interior or engine compartment, as well as on the trunk. Sand, dirt or mud in odd places , and seat belts that make a loud noise when they are extended or pulled back are all signs of damage from water. It’s also important to test drive a vehicle, especially one you think may have water or flood damage. Hints to watch out for during a test drive include damaged electrical systems and infotainment systems. These systems will act up if they have been affected by water. Also, look for signs of smoke while you test drive. 3. Be wary of cars that are priced below market value. There’s a reason behind the adage about things being too excellent to be real. For instance, cars are priced at a premium over their worth, and this is usually an indicator that something is wrong. Check the typical selling price for the vehicle you’re thinking of buying at independent sites for pricing of vehicles such as Edmunds and Autotrader. A used or new car that is priced lower than market value is a clear indicator the seller is anxious to get rid of it. Buyers must be cautious when a car is being advertised at a substantial discount. In addition to asking questions about the reason the vehicle is being sold for much less than it should be an offer, it could be a good idea to have the car examined by a professional who will identify any problems. 4. Take a professional inspection best engage a certified mechanic automotive technician to inspect a car prior to you purchase it. However, it’s even more critical to take this step in order to protect yourself from a possibly water-damaged car. A professional can help to ease your mind, particularly in the event that the vehicle you’re looking at has any of the signs that are listed in this article. Check that the inspection doesn’t only include obvious signs of water damage, but also a thorough inspection of the electronic equipment, as problems in these systems could take months to surface. A pre-purchase inspection usually be paid by the buyer, it’s money well spent if it prevents you from getting an automobile that’s a lemon. You can expect to spend from $100 to $200 to have an inspection. What to do if you bought a vehicle that is damaged by water you’ve bought a car that has water damage all could never be destroyed. Repairs can be made to the car with a skilled mechanic. However, remember that these aren’t DIY repairs. They will require professionals with extensive experience with cars. It’s also worth bearing in mind that repairing an affected vehicle after a flood won’t be inexpensive, and you’ll need to decide if the car is worth the expense. Especially since flood-damaged cars typically have no selling value. The bottom line Flood-damaged vehicles are utilized in every state of this country. If you think that a vehicle could have been affected by flooding or some other sort of water related event, there are several steps to consider, including completing a car history report, looking for telltale indications of water damage, and having the vehicle inspected by a qualified professional. Be aware that even if you don’t live in an area that has been affected through flooding you could unknowingly end up with a damaged or damaged vehicle. Learn more
Written by Contributing Writer Mia Taylor is a contributor to Bankrate and an award-winning journalist who has two decades of experience and worked as a staff reporter or contributor for some of the nation’s leading newspapers and websites including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Diego Union-Tribune, TheStreet, MSN and Credit.com. Edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are committed to helping readers feel confident to manage their finances through providing concise, well-researched and well-researched content that breaks down otherwise complex topics into digestible chunks.
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