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How to Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Car

What's in this article?
  1. How To Identify A Flooded Car
  2. 1) Check The Title
  3. 2) Inspect The Car For Flood Damage
  4. 3) Get A Vehicle History Report
  5. 4) Get A Carfax Report
  6. 5) Have A Mechanic Inspect The Car
  7. 6) Check For Discrepancies
  8. 7) Take It On A Test Drive
  9. Dangers Of Buying Flood-Damaged Cars
  10. Safety
  11. Increased Maintenance Costs
  12. Reduced Resale Value
  13. Difficulty Obtaining Insurance
  14. Hidden Damage
  15. Legal Issues
  16. Is A Flood-Damaged Car Repairable?
  17. Can You Insure A Flood-Damaged Car?
  18. What Happens If You Bought A Flood-Damaged Car?
  19. Wrap Up
How to Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Car

Flood damage is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a car. A car that has been through a flood can be damaged beyond repair, and even if it isn't, the repairs can be so extensive that it's not worth fixing.

The easiest way to avoid buying flood damaged cars is to know what to look for. Flooded cars typically have water damage in the interior, under the hood, and in the electrical system.

How to Identify a Flooded Car

Here are some useful tips that will help you spot and avoid buying flooded cars:

1) Check the title

If you're looking at a used car, be sure to check the title to see if it has ever been flooded. In some states, such as Louisiana and Texas, a "flood" or "salvage" designation on the title is required by law if the car has been damaged by flooding.

2) Inspect the car for flood damage

Even if the title is clean, it's always a good idea to inspect the car for signs of flood damage. You especially want to inspect;

  • The interior for water stains and signs of mildew or mold. This typically appears as a musty odor or discoloration on the upholstery, carpeting, or door panels.
  • Under the hood for signs of rust or corrosion.
  • For any sign of moisture like condensation in the headlights, taillights, or instrument panel.
  • Around the doors, windows, and sunroof for any sign of leakage.

3) Get a vehicle history report

If you're going to buy a used car, make sure you get a comprehensive history report. It is one straightforward way to avoid buying a flood car. This report will show any major events that have happened to the car, such as accidents, title changes, or being declared a total loss by an insurance company. It will also show whether or not the car has already been repaired and put back on the market.

4) Get a CARFAX report

Another great way to avoid buying a flooded vehicle is to get a CARFAX vehicle history report. The report tells you if the vehicle has been in any floods, and it also provides other important information about the car's history. You'll need the vehicle's VIN number, usually located on the driver's side door, and you can enter it into the CARFAX website to get the report.

5) Have a mechanic inspect the car

The best way to avoid buying flooded cars is to get a comprehensive inspection from an experienced mechanic. They will be able to spot any signs of water damage, as well as any other potential problems with the car. If the mechanic notices any evidence of water damage, it may be best to err on the side of caution and walk away from the deal.

6) Check for discrepancies

When you're inspecting the car, be sure to check for any discrepancies between the CARFAX report and what the seller is telling you. If there are any discrepancies, you might want to reconsider buying the car. Also, if you're looking at a used car and the seller is offering it for an unusually low price, be wary. They could be trying to offload a flooded vehicle.

7) Take it on a test drive

Finally, take the car on a test drive. This will give you a chance to check for any telltale signs of water damage, as well as get a feel for how the car drives. Strange smells, a musty odor, and strange noises from the car's engine are all red flags that the car may have been damaged in a flood.

It is easy to avoid buying a flooded car if you know what to look out for and take the time to inspect the vehicle thoroughly. By following these tips, you can protect yourself from making a costly mistake.

Dangers of Buying Flood-Damaged Cars

Many people are unaware that water-damaged cars often end up being sold to unsuspecting car shoppers. In fact, it is not uncommon for flooded cars to be cleaned up and put back on the market without any indication that it was ever damaged. However, there are fundamental reasons why you should avoid purchasing a flooded car:


A flood-damaged car may have sustained damage to major systems, including the electrical systems, mechanical systems, engine, and transmission. These systems are crucial for the safe running of the vehicle.

Increased maintenance costs

A flooded car is more likely to experience problems down the road, including rust, mold, and electrical issues. These problems can be costly and may require constant maintenance.

Reduced resale value

Even if a flood-damaged car is repaired, it will always carry a stigma that will decrease its resale value.

Difficulty obtaining insurance

Getting an insurance company to insure a flood-damaged car is extremely challenging. Most companies will charge higher rates for coverage. In some cases, they may even cancel your insurance policy if they find out you are driving a flood-damaged vehicle.

Hidden damage

Flood damage is often not immediately apparent, and may not show up for months or even years.

Legal issues

In some states, it is actually illegal to sell flooded vehicles without disclosing the damage. If you do purchase the car without knowing it was damaged in a flood, you may have little recourse if the problems begin to surface down the road.

Is a Flood-Damaged Car Repairable?

The short answer is yes, but it's important to understand that not all flood-damaged cars can be fully repaired. Whether the car can be successfully repaired or not will depend on the level of damage.

Cars that have been partially submerged may only require minor repairs, such as a new battery, new fluids, and a detailed cleaning. These cars may have sustained some damage to the interior, but the engine and other major systems should be unaffected.

Cars that have been completely submerged will likely require more extensive repairs. The level of damage will vary depending on how long the car was underwater and the depth of the water. In most cases, it is not economical to repair a car that has been submerged for an extended period of time.

Keep in mind that even if a car has been repaired, it will always carry the stigma of being flood-damaged. This can affect the resale value and may make it tough to obtain insurance coverage.

Can you insure a flood-damaged car?

The short answer is yes, you can insure a flood-damaged car. However, it will likely come with a higher premium and some caveats.

Flood damage is generally not covered by traditional auto insurance policies, which generally include liability coverage and collision coverage. If you live in an area that's prone to floods, you may want to consider purchasing comprehensive coverage, which does cover flood damage.

Even if you have comprehensive auto insurance, your insurance company may consider a car to be a total loss if the damage is severe enough.

Check with your insurance agent to see what coverage is available and whether flood-damaged cars are eligible for physical damage coverage.

What happens if you bought a flood-damaged car?

If you have already purchased a car that was damaged in a flood, there are a few things you can do to minimize the problems it may cause down the road.

  • Get a qualified mechanic to inspect the car as soon as possible. They will help you spot any potential problems and get them repaired before they become significant issues.
  • Be sure to get all repairs done by a skilled mechanic. This will ensure that the work is done properly and will help to preserve the value of the car.
  • Keep thorough records of all repairs and upkeep. This will be helpful if you ever need to sell the car or file an insurance claim.
  • Be prepared for increased maintenance costs. A flood-damaged car is more likely to experience problems down the road, so you will need to budget for additional repairs and maintenance.

Ultimately, a flood-damaged car is a risky buy. You should be ready for increased costs and potential legal problems down the road if you choose to purchase one.

Wrap Up

Buying a flood-damaged car is a gamble not worth taking. There are way too many risks, and the potential problems are simply not worth the savings. If you'd like to buy a used car, be sure to have it inspected by a qualified mechanic beforehand. And always remember to ask about the car's history to avoid making a costly mistake.

If you do decide to purchase a flood-damaged car, be sure to get it in writing that the seller is disclosing the damage. This will protect you in the event that problems arise down the road. And always remember to get comprehensive insurance coverage to protect yourself from expensive repairs.

Looking to ship your car or other vehicle with a professional? Contact us today for a free quote and our expert team at A1 Auto Transport will be happy to answer all your questions. 

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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.

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