You should be a cautious buyer and check out the car carefully before you buy. (Since flood damage can be hard to spot, it’s a good idea to consider paying an expert mechanic to inspect it for you.) Below are a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself.
Smell: the upholstery and the carpeting. Do they smell funky? Also, turn on the heat and see if there’s an electric/burning smell that might come from damaged wires. And turn on the AC and see if you get a blast of mildew-scented air.
Feel: the wires under the dashboard and in the engine (obviously when the car is turned off!). Do they feel brittle? That may be the result of immersion in water.
Listen: to the sound system/radio. If it sounds bad or isn’t working at all, that could be a sign of water damage. Ask why it’s not working.
Ask: the seller outright if the car was ever in a flood. While they may not have volunteered the information, they may be reluctant to lie when asked directly.
Consider: buying a vehicle history report that should tell you if the car’s been in a flood or issued a salvage title.
- See: if there are any high-water or mud marks on the engine, the wheel wells, the trunk or even the glove box. Get a flashlight and take a look in those hard-to-reach places that might not have been cleaned. Lift up the carpet and look underneath for mud, rust or dirt.
Realize: this isn’t just an issue of a bad-smelling car. Floods can damage vital parts of a car like the air bag system, brakes, and electrical system – and the damage may not show up right away. Your safety could be at risk if you are unknowingly riding around in a flood-damaged car.
Buying a car is one of the biggest consumer purchases you’ll make. Don’t put your hard-earned money into a flood-damaged lemon. Once you’ve signed the contract you’re committed, so Know Before You Owe!