If you’re in the market for a used car or truck, be aware that water-damaged vehicles could soon be coming to your community. While most will arrive from areas deluged by tropical storms and hurricanes, others can come from flooding in other parts of the country. The U.S. Justice Department and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warn that crooks often ship these flooded vehicles across the country to unwitting buyers, and any used vehicle in any part of the country needs to be checked for water damage.
Carfax estimates there are now more than 325,000 water-damaged vehicles on American highways. They’ve been found from California to Maine and Minnesota to Florida. In fact, the cities where the most flooded cars have washed up are Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago. The states with the most flood-damaged vehicles are Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.
A waterlogged vehicle can have chronic issues that can last for years. Water fouls fuel lines, destroys electronics, and rusts engines, brakes and other important parts.
You should always test drive and inspect any used vehicle you plan to purchase. Here are some signs a vehicle has suffered water damage:
- A musty odor or heavy aroma of cleaners or disinfectants to mask mold odors
- Water marks or dirt in the dashboard, carpets or trunk
- Rusty door hinges and truck latches
- Corrosion around bolts or screws
- Silt or mud under seats, glove compartments or window wells
- Electronics that flicker or don’t work
- Fog or moisture in interior lights or the dashboard
When test-driving a used vehicle, experts say you should:
- Turn on the ignition and check all instrument panel lights and accessories
- Test the interior and exterior lights, air conditioning, windshield wipers, turn signals, high beams and heater
- Turn on the sound system and check door speakers, which often become damaged in water
- Look at the engine oil – when mixed with even small amounts of water it turns murky and looks like a melted chocolate shake
- Inspect the air filter for water stains
If you suspect you unknowingly bought a water-damaged vehicle, the Federal Trade Commission has a wealth of resources for used car buyers who fear they are victims of fraud.
Learn more about avoiding flood-damaged vehicles at https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/flooded-cars