In the recent years, floods have become rampant in United States. For instance, in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey leading to a loss of more than 250,000 water damaged vehicles. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston with reliable sources indicating that the hurricane might have destroyed close to half a million vehicles.
Like fatal accidents, flood damage is an unfortunate event that causes irreparable damage that is quite costly to remediate. This is the reason why most auto insurance firms consider flood damaged vehicles subjected to submersion as totaled.
Usually, the aftermath of flood damage is defined by a hike of car prices due to a tight supply, as is the current case in Houston. Besides the price surge, some unsuspecting buyers may also end up buying water damaged cars that have been cleaned up. This reason is enough to worry you, more so if you are planning to buy a second-hand car in United States, especially in flood- damaged areas.
Why shouldn’t you buy a Water Damaged Car?
Car experts say that water is an enemy of vehicles since it can damage the engine, electrical system, and other critical vehicle parts. Besides the damage, flood damage also fuels corrosion, rusting, and mold growth. These blemishes reduce a vehicle’s life expectancy and performance.
Still, some flood damaged cars can be refurbished to look as good as new and fully operational. Selling those cars might be legal as long as the dealer notifies you that the car is a score of flood damage.
Nonetheless, this is not usually the case since some dealers will never disclose the information. Therefore, if you are looking to buy a used car, you need to be knowledgeable enough to avoid falling prey of cunning car dealers.
This article has highlighted various considerations that will help you ascertain if the car you are eyeing was initially water damaged.
1.Get A Detailed Vehicle History
Checking the car’s history is the first step that helps you gauge if the vehicle you are just about to buy has a history of water damage, or it comes from a flood- damaged region. To obtain this history, you need to acquire the vehicle’s VIN and use it to generate the car’s history from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, or trusted vehicle history report sites like AutoCheck and CARFAX.
Usually, the report shows the car title’s status, as well as a detailed history of vehicle-related issues like water damage or road accidents. However, the vehicle history might lack such critical information if the vehicle is not insured or the owner did not report the damage to his or her auto insurance provider.
Besides obtaining a vehicle report from a third party, you should also ask the dealer if floods have destroyed the car you are looking to buy. Top dealerships who value their reputation will always provide genuine information. You might also request the dealer to provide their affirmation as a written statement. If the seller refuses or hesitates to offer a written confirmation, then that should raise a concern.
2.Check The Car For water damage
Since the vehicle history report might not be conclusive, we suggest that you look for possible signs of water damage like premature corrosion and rusting. In this case, you ought to run a visual inspection on the electrical parts and connectors. White or bluish fuzz deposited on the parts might be a possible sign of water damage.
Moreover, you should inspect other car components like computer modules, floorboard, dashboard, screws, the engine compartment, and any other parts for possible signs of corrosion. However, you should be in a position to differentiate between normal corrosion from water damage corrosion.
Besides corrosion, water damaged vehicles might also have grit deposits, mud, stain marks, or rust in these parts.
3.Check for signs of mold or mildew
We all know that dampness and moisture provide favorable breeding conditions for mold and mildew. Therefore, the presence of mold or mildew in the car you are eyeing might be a good evidence of flood damage.
Like corrosion, you can check for mold growth on the car’s carpets, under the seats, seat belts, and tight areas. Mold infested upholstery presents as black, fluffy, velvety spots growing on surfaces of the car’s upholstery.
Besides damages revealed by the visual inspection, an unpleasant musty odor inside the car is also another possible indicator of mold growth. You should be wary of the fresheners and other pleasant scents used by dishonest dealers to mask the smell of mold.
4.Check for electrical issues
Car experts say that any electrical system is likely to fail when it comes into contact with water. Despite the fact that a cunning car dealer will seek for auto repair service providers to fix the electrical blemishes, some electrical problems will manifest days after water damage has occurred.
Therefore, you would want to gauge the integrity of the vehicle’s electrical system by turning various electrical systems on and off to ascertain that they work well, and checking if all signals and power controls are operational. You could also inspect the car’s exterior for signs of water damage like fogging inside headlamps as well as flex some wires to see if they break or crack easily.
If you realize any defect, request the seller to fix it before you buy. Some sellers might hesitate to adhere to your application since they understand that repairing such an issue will cost more. Therefore, you might want to avoid the risk if the seller tries to avoid the request.
5.Check The Car’s Upholstery For Staining
In most cases, water damage will stain a car’s seats, carpets, panels, and the headliner. Regardless of how much the seller cleans the water-damaged upholstery, you will not miss red flags that can help you identify that the vehicle might have been water damaged.
For this reason, you will need to check the car’s seats for abnormal water stains. Extensive stains on multiple seats might be a red flag, while smaller stains are normal for most used cars.
Apart from checking the seats, you need to inspect for water lines or swelling on the car’s panels, or the headliner. Extensive blemishes like swelling or the headliner peeling off might be an indicator of water damage.
In addition to the visual inspection for water stains, you can run your hands along the upholstery to locate any sign of moisture. In this case, we suggest that you open the vehicle’s trunk and run your hands on it carpet to check for moisture. As well, you may check under the spare wheel for moisture. These are some of the areas that are missed when cleaning up a water damaged car.
New carpets, seat covers, and new panels in an old car are a sign that the dealer has tried to replace the flawed parts. You should also be more cautious if the vehicle’s interior has colors that don’t match.
6.Scrutinize The Vehicle’s Mechanical Operation
Checking the car’s mechanical operation is another excellent way to spot damaged flood vehicles. Car experts argue that some flood damaged cars produce abnormal sounds, and their fluids have changes in color and viscosity. This is the most realistic indicator of a water damaged vehicle since taking water damaged for an auto repair service is quite expensive, and most dealers will not want to take the risk.
It would be a wise decision to avoid used cars with mechanical issues or invite an experienced mechanic to help you ascertain if the mechanical issues are associated with water damage.
All things being equal, second-hand vehicles should be sold at a realistic market price, determined by the car’s condition and model. However, some dealers may not mind disposing off a water damaged vehicle at a lower price. As such, if the dealer is selling the car you are eyeing at a price that is significantly lower than the market price, we suggest that you think twice before you decide to buy it. The low price might be a bait laid to trick you into buying a water-damaged vehicle.
No matter how new and operational a water damaged vehicle looks, we recommend that you avoid buying it. This is because the vehicle will subject you to regular and costly auto repair services, it has a reduced lifespan, and the car is dangerous to drive in.