How to spot flooded cars on the market - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

How to spot flooded cars on the market

(Source: AP Images) (Source: AP Images)
(WWBT) -

Early estimates show half a million water-damaged vehicles could soon be flooding auto markets following Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

So how exactly do you spot these water-logged wrecks?

Your first step to avoid buying a flood-car is to know your vehicle's history.

There are also three areas you want to pay close attention to when looking over a vehicle:

  • The trunk
  • The engine
  • The interior of the car. 

Harvey and Irma were monster storms that caused devastating floods. Although they hit hundreds of miles away, they could flood local roads with a hidden danger.

"We're talking maybe hundreds of thousands of vehicles that could return on the road in some form or another and they're rotting from the inside out,” said Chris Basso, who works for Carfax.

That's in addition to the already 13,000 formerly flooded cars already on the roads in Virginia.

“It’s going to corrode the mechanical systems,” said Basso. “It's going to short-out the electrical systems, and it may even compromise the safety systems, like your anti-lock brakes and your airbags.”

Some uninsured vehicle owners may try to hide what's happened to their car.

“The biggest signs of flood damage are going to be on the interior of the car … especially on the metal parts of the car,” said Basso.

He showed us what to look for...

"You want to look at seatbelts," said Basso. "See if there's any rust on the seat belt. Unfurl the seatbelt and see if any mold and bacteria is building up on the belt itself."  

Look for waterlines and corrosion on anything metal, especially the battery. And don't forget to lift the carpeting and run your hand along the plastic.

“You may find mud or silt that shouldn't be on the inside of the car,” said Basso.

He says you “want to lift the hood."

Finally, check the trunk - especially under the mats where the spare tire is located.

“If you've got condensation; if you've got mud or silt that have built up around here, even a water line that may exist," he said. "These are areas that can be overlooked when someone is trying to quickly clean up a flood car."

On top of personal inspection, always take a car you want to buy to a trusted mechanic.

And don't forget to jot down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and look up the vehicle’s history.

“Make sure you're doing the proper research ahead of time, so that you know the car you're thinking about buying is a waterlogged wreck,” said Basso.

Titles often get washed as cars are sold across state lines, meaning you can't really see the vehicle history. So plug in the VIN to a site like Carfax to see the true history. 

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