Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

flood damaged cars

What happens to flood damaged cars? It may not be the first thought that comes to mind as you stare in disbelief at the latest news of a natural disaster on your television screen. Yet, thousands upon thousands of vehicles salvaged from hurricanes Harvey and Irma are on their way to New Jersey this very minute. 

Many of these automobiles will be sold at salvage auctions, where buyers already know that the vehicles being sold have been through one misadventure or another. Newer vehicles, heavily dependent on computers, will be written off as total losses by insurance companies, who will issue a check to the owner and take possession of the vehicle. These cars are then reported to searchable databases. Then there are the ones that end up in the hands of unscrupulous sellers. How can buyers protect themselves from these con artists?

Always start with the Vehicle Identification Number. It can be found in two places: the dashboard and on the title. Free services such as flood car databases provided by Carfax or the National Insurance Crime Bureau will list the history of the vehicle you wish to purchase.  However, these resources are limited. Even ones that charge for access, such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, will not have all cars in their databases.

These gaps in the system will always be exploited by shady individuals. It does not help that different states have different standards when it comes to what is salvageable. It is common in many states for cars with corrosion or missing electrical parts to be made available for sale.

So, you suspect that a car may have been submerged in water. What can you do? Here are some clear signs that the vehicle may have recently spent time underwater:

  • Rust - You can always count on rust to tell you where water has contacted metal. Watch for exposed screws or unpainted metal.
  • Stains - Inspect for dirt or mud stains. An older vehicle with new carpets may be a sign of this being covered up.
  • Odor – A musty odor is a giveaway.
  • Sound – Sand or dirt that seeped in during the storm might produce a “crunchy” sound when you pull the seats forward or back.
  • Water line - Look for a water line on the lens or reflector of the headlights.
  • Rubber drain plugs - Check for rubber drain plugs. They are usually under the car or on the bottom of the doors. If there was any draining of flood water, they may be missing.
  • Fluids – Milky oil or leaked transmission fluid is a sign of water damage.
  • Power options – Turn everything on: windows, locks, wipers, air conditioning, etc. Make sure it all works.

You can take a test drive, listen for unusual sounds, and still wind up with a car that survived Katrina. Even a car that has been in a collision can get sent to a body shop that cuts corners by using parts from a scrapped car instead of a new car.  If you have a used car and suspect it contains defects caused by flood damage, contact this office and schedule an appointment today. 

The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC

is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.

Call (609) 585-0606 or click the button below to schedule an appointment

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