Beware of water damaged used cars: What to look for

Weather changes in the Eastern United States have caused many new and used cars to be water damaged. When looking for a used car for sale here are few items one needs to check before buying.

Water damage to a car can be a really serious issue, causing damage to a car’s electrical system and/or interior components. Repairs in general can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. In the wake of a hurricane, tropical storm, or even a bad rain storm or flooding, it is not uncommon for cars to suffer water damage.

Many times, vehicles will find their way to auctions, used car lots or even in newspapers for private sale after they have been affected by water damage from storms. Often, the dealerships or sellers will not disclose that the car has been affected. Car buyers beware of purchasing such vehicles!

When purchasing a car, it is important to put the car under major scrutiny before making the purchase. Get yourself educated when buying a car. Here are some of the things you can look for before shelling out lots of money for a vehicle that may be damaged:

- Check your car’s previous ownership history by calling Carfax or VINCheck and sharing the VIN number of the car. These sites share information from the National Insurance Crime Bureau as to whether or not the car has been either stolen or salvaged. These websites charge a fee; however, it may be worth it in the end if you were about to purchase a lemon.

- Ask your insurance company if coverage is available for cars that have suffered flood damage.

- If a car’s engine looks too clean, that may be a sign that it has been purposely cleaned to hide damage.

- Be wary of cars being sold for way less than Kelly Blue Book value. No one is giving anything away for free or without profit.

- After your own inspection, take the car to a trusted mechanic for your own piece of mind.

- When starting the car, you should not hear any unusual noises coming from the brakes or any sounds of squeaking or grinding.

- Check the transmission fluids. If the fluids appear milky, beige in color, or appear diluted, there is a good chance there is water in the pans.

- Although it seems like a no-brainer, put your hands over the seats on the car and make sure they are dry and firm. If you suspect they have been damaged by water, they may have been.

- Use your best intuition. Search every nook and cranny of your car looking for discoloration or odd or musty smells or mildew odors. If you smell strong deodorizers, that could be a sign that the buyer is attempting to cover up something as well.

Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.

Share this content.