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Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

September 7, 2017

With Hurrican Harvey estimated to destroy up to 500,000 cars, there's a chance one of those flood-damaged cars may end up for sale in your area, even if you live far away from Houston.

While Carfax will help point out vehicles that were flooded (they're releasing flood information for free on all vehicles), their database DOES NOT contain vehicles that were not insured, or repairs that were not filed through insurance. That could be up to 25% of the total flooded cars, or 125,000 cars that will hit the used car market without a proper history report.

Back when Hurrican Sandy hit, I did an interview with Business Insider where I provided 10 tips to help avoid buying a flood damaged car. Here they are, make sure you're aware of this as flood damaged cars hit the market:

  1. Always have the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a mechanic. They should make note of any mud, dirt, or grime around the alternator, wiring harnesses, starter motors, and power steering pumps. (You should always get a vehicle inspected regardless of whether you're worried about flood-damaged vehicles or not.)
  2. Look for discoloration on the carpeting, seats, seat belts, and door panels. Try to look for areas where standing water may have left behind a slightly different shade of color.
  3. Look for vehicles that have replaced the upholstery altogether. That's a big warning sign.
  4. Look for moisture on the inside of the instrument panel.
  5. Smell for musty or moldy odors, especially from areas that may be hard to reach. Run the air conditioning to see if any odors come out of the vents. Also smell for strong cleaning chemicals or fragrances that are trying to mask the odor.
  6. Check for fogging inside the head lights or tail lights.
  7. Check the engine compartment and trunk to see if there is any indication of water lines.
  8. Check the undercarriage and look for signs of rust or flaking.
  9. Look for dirt buildup or grit around the seat tracks or under the glove compartment.
  10. Check to make sure the vehicle identification number on the actual vehicle matches the paperwork.


My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar, Edmunds, and 1-800 Car Show are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.

New York Tri-State Residents - Important:

There is a new car leasing service called Carvoy, available to NY tri-state area residents, which I recommend you try - especially if you hate the stress of haggling with car dealerships. Carvoy provides pre-negotiated lease deals, calculated with taxes and all fees incuded so you know exactly what it will cost. Here is my list of Best Carvoy deals, updated each month.

- Gregg Fidan

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Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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