Beware of Water Damaged Cars Flooding the Market!
Don’t get soaked by buying a salvaged flood car because hidden water damage can leave unseen safety hazards.
The Better Business Bureau is warning people not to purchase water damaged vehicles or “flood cars” which are sure to hit the market soon if they haven’t already. Have you seen submerged cars on television and wondered what happened to them after the water receded?
The sad fact is that many of them will end up with For Sale signs on them on street corners and used car lots. Most, if not all of them, should be considered total losses never to be driven again but some less than honest car dealers will see an opportunity to turn a quick buck at your expense.
In 1999, Florida was hit by Hurricane Floyd. CARFAX, a company based out of Virginia that performs background checks on used vehicles, estimated there were at least 75,000 vehicles ruined by floods as a result. All of these cards were deemed “totaled” by insurance companies. Hurricane Katrina is said to have flooded up to a half million cars. People in the New Orleans area expect to see these cars for sale, so the cars are shipped to other areas where consumers are less likely to suspect that the car they’re buying was submerged in water.
Knowing that these flood cars are out there is one thing but how can you tell which ones they are after they’ve been spiffed up and detailed? Luckily there are some things to look for when buying a used car that can identify which ones were underwater.
Electronics Hate Water
Modern vehicles with all their computer chips and electrical systems provide comfort and efficient operation of the motor but these systems will not do well when submerged at all let alone a solid week. CD players may dry out but may have suffered permanent damage that you won’t be able to detect right away. There’s a good chance that something electrical is not going to function correctly after being submerged for any length of time so you should test as many electrical features as possible before making a purchase.
This is especially important when it comes to safety features. A newer car relies heavily on electronics and replacing or fixing any part of the electrical system can be horribly expensive. This is why it’s so important that you check the electrical system of a used vehicle thoroughly before you sign any papers or give anyone money.
Priced Way Below Blue Book
Any time you are out shopping for a vehicle and you find one that looks great but is priced far below the going rate it’s time to be cautious. If the car is in good condition there is no need to sell it for so cheap because they’ll eventually find someone willing to pay a fair price for it. There are certainly valid reasons for a person to sell a car below the going rate but this is something that should raise red flags and lead you to try and find the reason from the person selling the car. If you are given a particularly weak answer you should start wondering what’s wrong with the vehicle.
How to spot a flood car
- Priced lower than fair value
- Gravel or sand in the interior and especially under the dashboard. Look in the trunk, glove compartment, under the seats, and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
- Test everything related to the car’s electrical system. Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, heater, air conditioner, and cigarette lighter several times to make sure they all work.
- Examine the wiring under the dash to see if they bend or crack. Once they’ve been wet, wires become brittle and can crack or fail.
- Examine the gauges on the dashboard to see if they’re accurate. Check for signs of water, too.
- Order a vehicle history report from an online service such as CarFax or Autocheck. These are a great way to find out where a vehicle’s been and what’s happened, or not happened, to it.
- Musty smell or too much air freshener
- The car is from somewhere known to have been recently hit by a hurricane or flood.
Anytime you purchase a used car it’s a good idea to have a trusted mechanic take a look at it before you buy. These inexpensive pre-purchase inspections are inexpensive and can save you a tremendous amount in the long run.
Car history reports fill you in on a vehicle’s history before you buy. The data collected about a vehicle can tell you a lot about its current condition. Make sure you are armed with all the facts before purchasing a used car.
More Flood Car Information
Lemon Laws – Federal Lemon Law
CNN – Cars damaged by Gulf Coast storms starting to hit the market