Hundreds of thousands of cars were damaged in hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many of these flood damaged cars could end up in used car lots across the country, including here in Massachusetts. Flood damaged cars can often look and drive normally. However, many have serious issues that could cost you a lot in maintenance in the long run. More importantly, some issues could be safety related, putting you and your passengers at risk. Beware of used cars with flood damage by keeping the MA car buying tips below in mind.
Check the Title History
With the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can run reports on sites like CarFax. Do not rely on any reports provided to you by private owners or dealerships. Run the report yourself using an independent site. These reports will give you information on the title and service history. The first thing to look for is whether there’s a salvage title on the vehicle. This is a tell-tale sign of a serious past issue (beyond just flood damage).
Secondly, look at the ownership history. Some flood damaged cars do not get formally reported if the owners lack insurance coverage. Instead, the owners may have a shop repair and clean the car just enough for it to appear normal. They then will
Good Morning America actually had a segment on this very topic, showing how a shop repaired a flooded car in just 5 hours.
Look for Signs of Water Damage
If you closely inspect a used vehicle, you may find small signs of water damage. Here are a few examples:
- Smell Test – Does the interior of the car smell unusual, moldy even?
- Check Hard to Reach Places – Some compartments and crevices are difficult to clean and dry out. This is where you may see signs of dampness. Look at the headlights and taillights and inside different compartments. Do you see any moisture or rusting?
- Hire a Mechanic – You will likely miss some obvious signs, especially in the engine compartment, because you have an untrained eye. Consider hiring a mechanic to inspect a used car before you purchase it.
More Ways to Beware of Used Cars with Flood Damage
Used cars with flood damage will often have some red flags. It will be up to you whether to see them. Sometimes a deal is just too good to pass up. However, you should stop and think about why a particular car is offered at such a great price. A deal that’s too good to be true is often indeed too good to be true!