When you’re buying a used car, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a mechanic. There’s nothing new or Earth shattering about that advice, but people routinely ignore it.
Over the next few weeks and months, buyers who choose not to have used cars thoroughly inspected do so at their own peril. We have the recent flooding in Texas to thank for that.
Thousands of vehicles get damaged beyond repair anytime there’s a natural disaster involving water. Flooding, even on a small scale, can do more damage to a car than a lifetime on the road.
The floods in Texas were anything but small-scale, and some reports say up to 10,000 vehicles were damaged by the high waters.
Many of those cars will be declared losses by insurance companies and then sold, mostly for parts. Sometimes, though, cars will be cleaned up, taken out of state, and then given a swapped VIN and new title with no indication they were ever damaged by water.
That means buyers, perhaps you, could unwittingly end up with a badly damaged used car that you were told has never had a problem.
How can you avoid this situation? It’s actually quite easy. Look out for the obvious signs of flood damage. They include:
- A musty/moldy smell inside the car
- Water stains on the interior trim
- Condensation in the headlights/tail lights
- Warning lights on the dashboard (water damage causes all sorts of electrical shorts that probably won’t ever be fixed)
- Rusted bolts in the engine compartment, or, far less subtle, mud or grass near the engine
The best way to know for sure is to have the car checked out professionally and run a vehicle history report. The report won’t work, obviously, if the VIN has been changed, so be especially cautious of used cars over the next couple of months. Shopping at reputable dealerships will help lessen your risk.
Have you ever purchased a flood-damaged car?