how to avoid buying one

A natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flood, can have an effect even if you are thousands of miles from the scene of the incident. There are side effects. Some are obvious, like problems in the supply chain. A few less obvious: buying a vehicle that has suffered flood damage. In this article, I’ll go over ways you can avoid buying a car that has been damaged by flooding.

Can you tell if a car has been damaged by flood?


If you are not careful, you will buy a flood damaged car and that can cause your wallet to drown. Unfortunately for the consumer, there is no perfect way to prevent cars damaged by this phenomenon from reaching the market after that. Sometimes those cars end up in warehouses thousands of miles away from where the flood occurred.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a nonprofit organization, fights against insurance fraud. It says on its website, “Dishonest sellers and others can buy flood damage cars, dry and clean them, and sell them to unsuspecting buyers as used vehicles. Many of these vehicles hit the market after natural disasters ”.

4 ways to avoid buying a flood damaged car

A black car

If you are in the market for a car, it is important to pay attention to the signs of flood damage on a vehicle. Let’s review some forms of protection for you.

1. Buy only from reputable dealers

One of the best ways to avoid purchasing a flood damaged vehicle is to do business only with reputable businesses. How can I know if they have a good reputation? There are many ways:

  • Ask people: Ask people you trust to tell you about businesses they consider trustworthy.
  • Better Business BureauGo to BBB, org and read a particular business’s credentials, ratings, customer complaints, and others.
  • Online Reviews– Review websites like Yelp and Trustpilot can give you an indication of whether or not a business is trustworthy.

2. Look for signs of flood damage

Control buttons that are inside a car

According to the NICB, some signs that a car has been damaged by flood include:

  • A musty smell inside the vehicle
  • Water stains and mold on the interior trim of the vehicle
  • Worn on interior upholstery and other places
  • Worn metal
  • Mud in car crevices, including extra tire compartment
  • The carpet has recently been shampooed.

3. Search vehicle history


Do a search as to the history of the vehicle. A good place to start is the VIN number, that you can locate with these free digital tools. is a site that I have used to check the history of a car I was interested in. The site shows the history of the vehicle in detail, including whether the car was involved in an accident or was sold at auction.


The NICB has a free VINcheck database of flood damage cars and other information. This database will show you vehicles that have been reported by NICB member insured companies.

Carfax Flood Verification Tool

A car workshop

Carfax offers a free Flood Check tool that allows you to see if the vehicle appears in their database as damaged by a flood. To use the tool, you will need to enter the VIN of the car and an email address. According to Consumer Reports, Carfax could show a “possibility of flood damage” as well. When I entered my information, the Carfax tool indicated that I had no record of flood damage on my vehicle (poof!)

4. Have a mechanic examine the car


As with any used vehicle, you always want it to be explored by a mechanic. This is particularly true if you suspect there could be flood damage. “Have the car inspected by a certified diagnostic mechanic as a condition of purchase,” says financial expert Clark Howard. “You can leave a deposit if you wish, but specifically in writing that the money must be returned to you if the car is not checked. You can eliminate nine out of ten used car disaster purchases this way. ” A good mechanic should be able to find evidence of flooding by checking the condition of cables, motor, and other parts of the car. Clark recommends that you find a certified ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) to check that everything is okay. Visit to find certified ASE mechanics near you.

Final notes

If you happen to find a person trading storm-damaged cars, according to the Federal Trade Commission, you can save the next potential customer a headache and some money by contacting:

  • Local police force
  • To the NICB at (800) TEL-NICB (835-6422) Monday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm CST.
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