Buying a used car can save you money, but if that car has flood damage, you could be in for a long, expensive ride. In many cases, a flooded vehicle heads straight to the junkyard, but unfortunately, sometimes these vehicles slip through the cracks. Before you head out to the dealership to buy your next used car, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Floods leave a lot of damage in their wake including vehicles that can start to decline from the inside out before you even know it.
Check the History
The term “title washing” refers to when a title is branded in one state as flood-damaged, and then transported to a different state altogether. Even this small difference can change the branding of the vehicle, and a clear title could be issued. You’d never know about the flood if this happens, and some unscrupulous sellers won’t disclose this information to buyers. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to order a vehicle history report. This report will include everything from the title branding to the registration history. It won’t matter where the car is registered when you look at the title history report. Everything will be disclosed including what states it has been registered in and other important information. Run a check using the VIN to confirm that it’s not in the VINCheck system. This system compiles data from insurers and will allow you to see if the car has been totaled or salvaged in the past.
Take a Closer Look at Condition
Aside from a clear title and a good history report, you should also perform a thorough inspection. Hire a trusted mechanic to help you look for any signs of flood-related damage. When a car is underwater during a flood, debris and water can get into areas it normally would not. Even a nicely detailed vehicle can show signs of water damage when inspected by the eyes of an experienced mechanic. Here are some things you can look for when shopping for a used vehicle to ensure that it’s flood damage-free:
- Look inside the trunk and the interior of the vehicle. Feel the carpet and look for moisture. Be aware of any unusual signs of rust, fading, and stains. If the carpet is freshly shampooed, it may be because the seller is trying to cover up the damage. Check all electrical components like the air conditioning system and the windshield wipers. Pay close attention to the presence of any mold or mildew odors inside the vehicle.
- Check the engine bay and look for signs of waterlogged headlights. These should be easy to spot since you can likely see the visible waterline. Under the hood, look for unusual amounts of dirt and debris and be sure to check all cracks and crevices. The battery contacts should be clean and free of rust. Have your mechanic look at all wiring harnesses, hoses, and electrical components in the vehicle.
- Don’t forget to check underneath the car, too. Be aware of any caked-on dirt and debris along with excess rusting, particularly on newer cars. The brake discs will likely show rust quickly, so have those carefully inspected, too.