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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 smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive financial calculators and tools that provide original and impartial content, by enabling users to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make sound financial decisions. Bankrate has agreements with issuers including, but not limited to American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The offers that appear on this website are provided by companies that compensate us. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this website, for example such things as the sequence in which they appear in the listing categories in the event that they are not permitted by law. This applies to our loan products, such as mortgages and home equity, and other home lending products. However, this compensation will affect the information we provide, or the reviews you see on this site. We do not include the vast array of companies or financial deals that might be open 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 Credit.com. The article was edited by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are dedicated to helping readers gain confidence to take control of their finances through providing precise, well-researched, and well-researched data that breaks down complicated subjects into bite-sized pieces. The Bankrate promises

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who ensure everything we publish will ensure that our content is reliable, honest and trustworthy. Our loans reporters and editors concentrate on the points consumers care about the most — the different types of lending options as well as the best rates, the most reliable lenders, how to repay debt, and much more. So you’ll be able to feel secure when making your decision to invest your money. Editorial integrity

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We are compensated for placement of sponsored products or services, or when you click on certain links posted on our website. This compensation could affect the way, location and in what order products appear within listing categories, with the exception of those it is prohibited by law in the case of our home equity, mortgage and other products for home loans. Other factors, like our own proprietary website rules and whether a product is available within your region or within your personal credit score could also affect the manner in which products are featured on this website. We strive to provide a wide range offers, Bankrate does not include details about every financial or credit product or service. Car buyers throughout the nation are susceptible to the effects of catastrophic floods, if they do not know to purchase water-damaged cars. Used and new vehicles that have been damaged by significant flood events like the Hurricane Ida which hit 2021 in the year 2021 can be brought to market after the storm. Carfax reports that as high as 212,000 vehicles could have been damaged by the hurricane Ida. If flood-damaged cars are sold to buyers who are not aware of the damage, they often have expensive mechanical and electrical problems that are discovered several months later. Even if you don’t live in a region where flooding is common you could still purchase a car that has water damage. Carfax research has also revealed that damaged vehicles with water damage are found everywhere, which means that buyers from coast to coastline are in danger of buying an affected car due to flooding. How to tell if an automobile is damaged by water? Damaged cars from water can be difficult to recognize. They usually look good and could even run for a little while. However, eventually you could face problems as flooded cars decay from the inside out. Here are a few indicators that your car could be damaged by water smell musty A car’s interior that has been damaged by water cars will often smell musty. Sellers who are not reputable may attempt to cover up the smell using strong air fresheners, however it can be very difficult to truly get rid of a car’s smelly moldy smell. One way to test how a car smells is to lie in the car and shut the windows. Carpets that are damp or wet: Water damage can collect in areas you cannot immediately see such as underneath carpeting. Take a look at the carpets in the car and pat them to try and locate any possible moisture buildup. Also, check the trunk, even removing the spare tire to check for any evidence of water under it. Upholstery that is stained or not matching and carpeting: Another sign that water has damaged your vehicle is to see a car that has stained or loose carpeting and upholstery. Check for brown, blotchy stains, which are signs that water has damaged the car. When you conduct inspections, check the carpeting on the floor with carpeting on the doors and the roof. All of them should appear like they are of the same age and color. Rust: A vehicle with water damage may be covered in rust on the doors, in the hood, and even under the dashboard. Screws, door hinges as well as trunk latches, and door handles could be showing signs of rust. Brittle wires: Check under the dashboard if you believe that your vehicle may be suffering from water damage. The presence of brittle wires may indicate that the vehicle is a victim of an event that caused water of some type. Fog or moisture beads: If your vehicle’s interior lights instruments, exterior lights, or lights look foggy or have water beads within them, consider it an indication that the vehicle might have water damage. Silt or mud buildup: When there is a flood, water can carry mud and dirt into vehicles. When the flood is over, the dirt will remain. Some places to check for silt and mud are the trunk, glove compartment, under the dashboard, and beneath the seats. Four tips to avoid purchasing an automobile that is flooded If you think that your vehicle might have water or flood damage it is important to do research and determine whether your suspicions are right. There are numerous tools available to aid you in getting to the bottom of this important issue, and also warning signs to look out for. 1. Conduct a car history check The process of running a car history report can help uncover issues with your car prior to you buy. A sure sign of a water-damaged car can be seen in the way it is identified as such. Departments of motor vehicles need permanent title marks on vehicles that were badly affected by flooding. If the vehicle was declared totaled, it is required to get a new title entirely that’s branded “salvage” as well as “flood.” The title will be determined by the stateof the vehicle the fact that this happened could be indicated with a numeric code. Carfax and Experian offer flood check tools that permit users to conduct an independent check on the past of a car. The platforms require only the VIN of the vehicle in question. When looking through a car’s history take a look for vehicles originating from areas damaged by floods. The National Insurance Crime Bureau also provides online VIN checks that allow customers to determine if a car has been declared salvaged. You should look at a vehicle’s history report to determine if the vehicle has been sold several times over a short period of time. Be particularly leery of any history that includes buyers in multiple states. This could be a sign of what’s known as car “title washing,”” in which unscrupulous sellers change the title of a car repeatedly to hide the car’s history. 2. Examine for signs of water damage Cars that are submerged in water often have evident signs, but they may be subtle, especially if the car has been cleaned up for sale. Pay attention to musty or moldy smells, including those coming through the system for controlling temperature. Note any stains that appear on the car’s interior or engine compartment, as well as on the trunk. Sand, dirt or mud in odd spots and seat belts that sound sluggish when they are extended or pulled back are all signs of damage from water. It is also essential to try driving a car, especially one you think could be affected by flooding or water damage. Hints to watch out for while you’re driving include malfunctioning electrical systems as well as infotainment systems, which will act up if they have been affected by water. Also, observe for smoke while you test drive. 3. Be wary of cars that are priced lower than market value There’s a reason for the adage about things being too great to be true. It’s the case with cars that are priced way below actual value. This is usually a red flag that something is wrong. Find the average selling price of the vehicle you are considering buying on independent vehicle pricing sites such as Edmunds as well as Autotrader. A car that is new or used that is priced lower than market value is an indicator the seller is anxious to dispose of it. Buyers need to be careful when a car is being offered at a steep discount. As well as asking questions regarding the reason why the car is being offered at a lower price than what it is an offer, it could be recommended to get the vehicle looked at by a professional who can find any issues. 4. Take a professional inspection generally a wise idea to engage a certified mechanic automotive technician to examine a vehicle prior to you purchase it, but it’s even more critical to take this step to protect yourself from damage caused by water on your car. A professional can help calm your mind, especially if the car you are contemplating buying has one or more of the warning signs mentioned below. Be sure that the inspection does not just include obvious indicators of water damage but also a thorough test of all electronic equipment, as issues that are related to these systems may take months to surface. Although a pre-purchase inspection generally be paid for by the buyer, it’s money well spent in the event that it stops you from getting the car that’s an absolute lemon. Expect to pay from $100 to $200 for an inspection. What do you do if bought a vehicle that is damaged by water you’ve purchased a car with water damage, it may not be lost. Repairs can be made to the car by contacting an experienced mechanic. However, remember that these are not do-it-yourself fixes. You’ll need professionals with extensive knowledge of cars. Also, keep in mind that fixing an affected vehicle after a flood won’t cost a lot, so you’ll want to determine whether the vehicle is worth the expense. Particularly since damaged cars from floods generally don’t have a potential for resales. The bottom line Flood-damaged vehicles are utilized throughout the nation. If you think that a vehicle could have been affected through flooding or any other type of water event there are a variety of steps you can follow, such as obtaining a vehicle history report, examining for telltale signs of water damage and having the car inspected by a qualified professional. Keep in mind that even if aren’t in a region that has been affected by flooding, you might not be aware of an automobile that has been damaged by water. 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 Credit.com. Written by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate from late 2021. They are committed to helping readers to control their finances with concise, well-researched and well-researched content that breaks down complicated topics into digestible chunks.

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