This year’s hurricane season was wicked. You’ve no doubt seen the extensive damage that was done to our coastal cities from the mega storms. Storm surges, high winds, and heavy rain caused so many communities in the area to take on incredible amounts of water in a short amount of time. Once the people are rescued and safe, it’s time for the cleanup effort. Many homes were flooded and even more cars were utterly destroyed by the flooding, but what happens to these cars after the waters recede and life goes back to normal?
There are typically two paths a car takes right after significant flooding occurs. Whenever the car is insured by comprehensive coverage that includes flood damage, the owner reports the damage to the vehicle so an insurance adjuster can come and assess the damage. After making the report that the car is indeed destroyed, the car will be taken to a junkyard and be used for scrap parts.
Another route a car owner can take is to not report the damage and try to repair the car without help from the insurance company. These cars will go unreported because they are uninsured or underinsured and the owner would like to rebuild it and try to make it run again. The owner has the best intentions, but it can be a problem down the line when they go to resell the car as the person buying it will not know it’s been flooded, unless the original owner tells them.
These cars, you will need to look out for in the future, but the good news is there are signs to look out for and things to check on the Carfax report that will paint a picture of what state the car is actually in. When looking at a used car, you should always perform a thorough investigation of the vehicle, both the interior, and under the hood.
Right off the bat, if the inside of the car smells musty like it’s been wet for a long amount of time, it’s not a good sign. Cars that have taken a significant hit as far as flooding will more than likely take on mold and mildew. It can be difficult, but not impossible, to remove the smell from the inside, so be on the lookout for faint, musty smells.
Also in the interior, watch for upholstery and patches of carpeting that look out of place. What some owners will do is replace the damaged inside with upholstery that doesn’t quite match perfectly.
Take a Test Drive
When you take the car for a test drive, make sure to watch carefully for any lack of performance from the engine. The car should start up without hesitation, run smoothly and shouldn’t smell strange. When a car is flooded, the most important systems that can fail are the transmission and brake lines, both of which need to be in tip-top shape for the car to be safe enough to drive. Make sure the brakes aren’t spongy when you hit them and be sure to check the oil using a dip stick. The oil shouldn’t be murky or watery, and if it is, it’s a sign that the car had been water-logged in the past.
Check the CARFAX
Even though the car owner may never have reported water damage to the insurance company, they may have had work done on it by mechanics in their area that was reported to Carfax.
Listen for Tech Issues
We all know what happens when we drop most smartphones in a pool of water. The same problems can arise when a stereo system in a car takes on water because most systems are sensitive to water. Turn on the radio and listen for static noises, a sign of water damage.
Get an Expert
Even if you know what to look out for, it still is a good idea to get an expert to check out the car. Chances are, they’ve encountered a car in the past that had water damage and will be able to look at it and make a determination. Unless you know a reputable mechanic in your personal life, this will cost you money, but it would cost you a lot more over time if you end up buying a faulty, damaged car. Along that same vein, make sure that the car seller you visit is reputable and known for their clear business practices.
If you have any doubts as to whether the car is a flood damaged vehicle, back away. If the deal seems too good to be true, it just might be. When a car is flooded, its safety is compromised significantly, as is its resale value over time. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign on the line.