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How to avoid buying a water-damaged car Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our mission is to help you make better financial decisions by providing you with interactive financial calculators and tools as well as publishing unique and impartial content. This allows you to conduct your own research and compare data for free to help you make informed financial decisions. Bankrate has partnerships with issuers, including but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Make Money The deals that are displayed on this site come from companies that compensate us. This compensation could affect how and when products are featured on this website, for example, for example, the order in which they be listed within the categories of listing and other categories, unless prohibited by law. Our loans, mortgages, and other home lending products. But this compensation does not influence the information we publish, or the reviews appear on this website. We do not include the vast array of companies or financial offerings that could be available to you. Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

5 min read Published June 22, 2022

Written by Mia Taylor Written by Contributing Writer Mia Taylor is a contributor to Bankrate and an award-winning journalist who has two decades of experience and worked as a staff reporter or contributor for some of the nation’s leading newspapers and websites including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Diego Union-Tribune, TheStreet, MSN and The article was edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain confidence to control their finances by providing concise, well-researched and researched information that break down complex issues into digestible chunks. The Bankrate promise

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There are money-related questions. Bankrate has answers. Our experts have been helping you master your money for over four decades. We strive to continuously give our customers the right guidance and tools required to succeed throughout life’s financial journey. Bankrate adheres to strict standards standard of conduct, so you can rest assured that our content is honest and accurate. Our award-winning editors and reporters provide honest and trustworthy content that will help you make the right financial decisions. Our content produced by our editorial staff is objective, truthful and uninfluenced by our advertisers. We’re honest regarding how we’re in a position to provide quality content, competitive rates and useful tools for you by explaining how we earn our money. is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We receive compensation for the promotion of sponsored goods or services, or when you click on specific links on our site. So, this compensation can influence the manner, place and in what order products appear within listing categories, with the exception of those it is prohibited by law for our mortgage, home equity and other products for home loans. Other elements, like our own website rules and whether or not a product is available within your region or within your self-selected credit score range may also influence how and where products appear on this site. We strive to provide an array of offers, Bankrate does not include details about every financial or credit product or service. Auto buyers across the country are susceptible to the effects of catastrophic floods, if they do not know to purchase water-damaged cars. Used and new cars that have been damaged by floods of significant magnitude such as Hurricane Ida in 2021, can be brought to market following the storm. Carfax data shows that up to 212,000 vehicles might have been damaged by the hurricane Ida. When flood-impacted cars are resold in the market, buyers are often faced with costly electrical and mechanical issues that are discovered several months later. Even if you don’t live in a region in which flooding is common, it is possible to purchase a car that has water damage. Carfax research shows that water-damaged vehicles appear in every state, meaning buyers from coast to coast are in danger of buying a flood-damaged car. What can you tell when an automobile is damaged by water? Damaged cars from water can be difficult to spot. They usually look good and could even run for a while. However, eventually you will encounter issues as cars that have been flooded decay from the inside out. Here are some of the indicators that your car could be damaged by water smell musty the interior of water damaged automobiles will typically smell musty. Some sellers will try to cover up the smell using strong air fresheners but it isn’t easy to rid a car of a musty smell. One way to test how a car smells is to be inside and close the windows. Carpets that are damp or wet water damage may accumulate in areas that you can’t be able to see, like under carpeting. Check the carpets all over the car and then pat them in order to find any potential moisture buildup. Check the trunk as well taking off the spare tire to check for any evidence of water under it. Carpeting that is stained or unmatched carpeting: Yet another sign of water damage is a car with stained or loose carpeting or upholstery. Check for brown, blotchy streaks, which are indicators that water has damaged the car. When you conduct inspections, check the carpeting on the floor with upholstery on the doors as well as the roof. All of them should appear like they’re of the same age and color. Rust: A car with water damage might be covered in rust on the doors, inside the hood or even under the dashboard. Screws, hinges for doors as well as trunk latches, and door handles could be showing signs of rust. Brittle wires: Look under the dashboard if you believe the car might have water damage. The presence of brittle wires may indicate that the vehicle has been impacted by an event that caused water of some type. Fog or moisture beads: If your car’s interior lighting, instrument panel or exterior lights appear to be hazy or contain water beads within them, think of it as an indication that the vehicle may have water damage. Silt or mud buildup When there is a flood, water may carry mud and dirt into the vehicle. After the flood has gone, the dirt will remain. The most common areas to look for mud and silt include the trunk, glove compartment, under the dashboard, and below seats. Four tips to avoid purchasing a flooded car If you suspect that your vehicle might be damaged by flooding or water It is essential to conduct your homework and find out whether your suspicions are right. There are many tools that can assist you in getting to the root of this vital issue, and also signs to be alert for. 1. Conduct a car history check Running a vehicle history report can uncover problems with a vehicle before you buy. The most obvious indicator of a car that has been damaged by water will be one branded as the case. Departments of motor vehicle require permanent title marks for vehicles which have been severely affected by flooding. If the vehicle is declared to be totaled, it’s required to get a new title entirely that is labeled “salvage” or “flood.” Depending on the state, however, this fact may be made clear by a numerical code. Carfax and Experian have flood check tools that allow users to conduct a free check on the background of a vehicle. These platforms simply require entering the VIN of the vehicle that is being investigated. When looking through a car’s history be sure to look for vehicles that are from areas that have been hit by the floods. It is also important to check the National Insurance Crime Bureau also provides free online VIN checks that allow customers to determine if a car has been declared salvaged. You will want to examine a car’s history report for any sign that the car was sold numerous times in a short period of time. Be cautious of a past history that has buyers from multiple states. It could be a sign of what’s referred to as car “title washing,”” where unscrupulous sellers retitle cars repeatedly in order to hide the car’s history. 2. Check for signs of water damage. Cars which are submerged in water often have evident signs, but they can be subtle particularly if the vehicle has been cleaned up for sale. Be aware of musty or moldy smells, including those coming out of the control panel for the temperature. Take note of any stains you see on the car’s interior, engine compartment and trunk. Dirt, sand or mud in odd places and seat belts that make a loud noise when extended or pulled back are all signs of damage from water. It is also essential to try driving a car, especially one you think might be prone to flooding or water damage. Some things to be aware of while you’re driving include malfunctioning electrical systems as well as infotainment systems that could be triggered if they’ve been impacted by water. You will also want to observe for smoke while you test drive. 3. Be cautious about cars that are priced below market value. There’s a good reason behind the old saying that things are too great to be true. It’s the case with cars that are priced well below their worth, and this can be an indicator that something is not right. Find the average selling price for the vehicle you’re considering purchasing at independent sites for pricing of vehicles like Edmunds or Autotrader. A car that is new or used priced below market value is a strong indicator the seller is anxious to get rid of the car. Buyers need to be careful when a car is advertised at a substantial discount. As well as asking questions about the reason the vehicle is being sold for a lesser price than what it is and why it is a good idea to have the car evaluated by a professional who can detect any issues. 4. Take a professional inspection always a good idea to engage a certified mechanic automotive technician to thoroughly examine a vehicle prior to you purchase it, but it’s even more crucial to take this step to safeguard yourself from damage caused by water on your vehicle. A professional will to ease your mind, particularly in the event that the vehicle you’re considering has one or more of the warning signs listed in this article. Be sure that the inspection doesn’t only include obvious signs of water damage, but also a thorough inspection of all the electronics equipment, since problems that are related to these systems may be a long time before they are discovered. Although a pre-purchase inspection usually be paid by you, the prospective buyer, it’s worth it to prevent you from getting the car that’s a lemon. It is possible to pay between $100 and $200 to have an inspection. What should you do if you bought a water-damaged car If you’ve purchased a vehicle that has water damage all might never be destroyed. You can repair the car with a skilled mechanic. However, remember that these aren’t DIY fixes. They will require an expert with a vast knowledge of cars. It’s also worth bearing in mind that fixing an affected vehicle after a flood won’t be cheap, so you’ll want to determine whether the car is worth the investment. Particularly since damaged cars from floods typically have no selling value. The bottom line is that flood-damaged vehicles are in use in every state across this nation. If you are concerned that your car could have been affected by flooding or another kind of water-related event, there are steps you need to take including running a vehicle history report, examining for telltale evidence of water damage, and having the vehicle inspected by a professional. Keep in mind that even if do not reside in an area that has been affected with flooding, it is possible that you could unknowingly end up with a water damaged vehicle. Learn more


Written by Contributing Writer Mia Taylor is a contributor to Bankrate and an award-winning journalist who has two decades of experience and worked as a staff reporter or contributor for some of the nation’s leading newspapers and websites including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Diego Union-Tribune, TheStreet, MSN and Written by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since late 2021. They are dedicated to helping their readers feel confident to control their finances with clear, well-researched information that breaks down complicated topics into manageable bites.

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