Salvage Cars: What To Look For In Vehicles After A Flood

Here’s an example of the savage cycle of twisted business and dealer fraud that plays out in disaster zones around the country: there’s been a flood, and you’ve lost your car to the murky waters. You need a new one, and fast. The thing is, so do a lot of other people, and it’s easier and cheaper for used car dealers to sell you a vehicle just like the one you lost–a car that was destroyed by the flood waters, only to be made pretty on the exterior and put up for sale yet again. Here’s what you need to look for beneath the hood after there’s been a flood–or a hurricane!

A lot of vehicles end up in the junkyard after being stripped of their parts, which themselves may have been damaged by a natural disaster like the aforementioned. Most people don’t know any better, and that’s why you should stay vigilant when shopping for a vehicle after a disaster anywhere in the country. The nice thing about living in the age of digital devices and electronic pleasures, though, is that water completely destroys their ability to function properly. If you notice that the lights on your dash are flashing without reason or your car stalls when you try to make a left-hand turn at a packed intersection, then your vehicle may have been rebuilt before you bought it.

Chances are a dealer isn’t going to let you test drive something with electronics that are likely to fail right away, so you might have to rely on other factors to make your decision. The first thing you should think about is the smell. If your would-be purchase doesn’t have that new car smell, that’s fine–but does it smell like a pair of old gym shorts instead? Don’t be afraid to point your nose up and breathe deeply. Any musty odor could be a sign of previous flood damage.

Another thing to watch is the price. Check the market value for a used vehicle of the year, make, and model of the one you’re buying with the right number of miles (there are web services that provide this type of information). If the price on the used vehicle seems on the low end, it’s worth asking why.

The last thing to do is pop the hood and actually check for rust. When you’re done fondling the innards of the vehicle you like, then get on your knees and check the underside. Give it a really good look, because this thing won’t come with a guarantee.

If everything looks fine and dandy, but you’re still suspicious, then you’ll want to perform an autocheck. These days, records will help fill in the blanks–they’ll tell you about the car’s previous life experiences. If the used vehicle is from Houston or the southern tip of Florida, then maybe you should try a different dealer. Be smart when you’re out there searching for a vehicle!