Buying Flood-Damaged Cars: What You Need to Know?

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Buying Flood-Damaged Cars

Floods can cause a great deal of damage to properties and vehicles, just like other natural disasters. It is possible for criminals to take advantage of flood-damaged vehicles by defrauding unsuspecting consumers.

Flood-damaged vehicles are vehicles that have been submerged in water to the point where their bodies, engines, or mechanical components have been damaged. A driver’s insurance company may settle a claim by buying a vehicle and selling it at a salvage auto auction if the vehicle has sustained substantial damage.

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Car dealers who buy flood-damaged vehicles will dry and clean them but may leave plenty of hidden damage or are dishonest about the extent of the damage. Afterward, they sell the cars as used cars to unsuspecting buyers in states without storms or natural disasters.

Rather than disclose the damage on the title of a vehicle as is required, dishonest dealers hide the damage, committing a crime known as “title washing.” The damaged vehicles are then sold.

Prevention Tips to Avoid Fraud

It is possible for consumers to prevent flood-damage vehicle fraud by taking the following precautions before purchasing a used vehicle:

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  • Make sure you buy your car from a reputable dealer like A better bid.
  • Check the carpets, floormats, headliner fabric, and behind the dashboard for water stains, mildew, sand, and silt.
  • Carpets that have recently been shampooed should be checked.
  • The upholstery and door panels in the interior should be checked for fading.
  • Make sure the screws in the console or areas where water normally doesn’t get to are not rusted.
  • Make sure there is no mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, on the alternator, behind wiring harnesses, around the power steering pump, starter motor, or relay recesses.
  • Check the interior of the seatbelt retractors for moisture, mildew, or grime by pulling the seatbelt out all the way.
  • Due to flooding, door speakers are often damaged.
  • Ensure that the vehicle is inspected by a qualified mechanic before you purchase it.
  • Get a history report on the vehicle. If it’s been in an accident or flooded, ask about it.
  • Make sure the title and ownership papers are free of fraud and potential issues.
  • A title search should be conducted on the vehicle.
  • Make sure there are no signs of oxidation under the hood. These indicators can be found by pulling back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connections:
    • Rusting will occur on ferrous materials
    • Patina will appear on copper when it is left untreated
  • White powder and pitting will appear on aluminum and other alloys.
  • Take your instincts into consideration: Don’t buy when a deal seems too good to be true if you don’t like the answers.

Dylan Miller

I am a Chicago native and regular contributor to "Locar Deals" and "Cars Cache". I have a master's degree in English, am an automobile content creation specialist, and have written professionally for a variety of automotive companies over the past few years. I write on a variety of vehicles, from high-end luxury cars to ten-year-old gas guzzlers and everything in between. And I love sharing valuable car buying tips with consumers from all walks of life.

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