How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car

Storms like Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Florence have made a huge impact in the U.S., affecting millions of lives over the past few years.

But a lingering affect of the storms continue to invade our roads every day.

"One problem, especially here in Texas and in the DFW area, our data shows that there's over 12,000 flood damaged vehicles that are back on the road in this area and Texas has the most flood damaged cars in the entire country," said Christopher Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax.

He said there's nearly half a million flooded cars from these recent storms that are putting people's lives at risk.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people think it's no big deal but these cars rot from the inside-out. Sooner rather than later, the water is going to affect the mechanical system, short out the electrical system," he said. "It could affect airbags to deploy when needed, anti-lock braking system and even mechanical parts to the car. Once those parts start to rust and break down, their inability to work properly can make those cars stop running and turn into ticking time bomb.

In many cases, he said the red flags are easy to identify:

  • Check for rust or corrosion on the engine.
  • Look for condensation in the lights.
  • See if there's sand and dirt in unusual places.

"Especially in the inside of the car, the metal parts of the inside of the car, the seat rails, seat belts, the steering column underneath, those parts all rust out and are places that we typically look for or pay a lot of attention to. But those are going to be the most telltale signs that water was most likely in this vehicle and you could have a flood damage car on your hands," Basso explained.

But even the best auto dealers know how to clean these areas up, that's why checking the auto history before purchasing a car is vital.

Next, check the car's title.

If there's any flood damage, it should be marked "salvage" or "flood damage."

"If you see one of those on the title, you want to proceed with caution," Basso said. "Make sure you know what you're getting before you lay down your hard earned money and if you decide to buy that car, have a mechanic check it out, taking it for a test drive and know you're going to be comfortable with that car before you buy it."

While Carfax is a great place to look at the history of your vehicle, there are other resources like autocheck.com or VINCheck.

For more tips on how to identify a flooded car, click here at Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

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