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Automobiles Auctions   >   Articles   >   How to Spot Flood-Damaged Vehicles


How to Spot Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Sometimes vehicles that have suffered significant water-damage are offered for sale at automobile auctions. These may include vehicles that have been damaged in natural disasters, hurricanes, floods, etc. In any case, potential buyers should be aware that vehicles that have suffered significant water-damage, should be aware of this fact, as well as the possibility that such a vehicle could well experience significant mechanical and reliability problems.

So how do you know if a vehicle offered to you has been flood-damaged?

Don't Assume Your Safe Because of Your Geographic Location

The first thing to remember is that where you live, and the location of the auction, is no guarantee that a vehicle hasn't suffered water-damage. This is because it is not uncommon for used vehicles to be shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles, before being offered for sale.

In other words, you always need to be alert to the possibility of being offered a flood-damaged vehicle, even if you live far away from any flood or hurricane zones.

Look at the Vehicle's History & Documents

You should also try and find out as much as you can about any vehicle that you are seriously considering purchasing. Sometimes, research of this type can be very revealing:
  • In some cases, flood-damage may show up as a brand on the vehicle's title. That said, the absence of a brand on the title does not necessarily mean the vehicle is okay - variations in state laws, circumstances particular to the vehicle or the incident, or the practice of "vehicle title washing", can all mean that even a very seriously damaged vehicle can avoid being title branded in some situations.

  • You can also use online services to get more detailed histories of vehicles offered to you. provides vehicle history reports with over 60+ problem checks (based on access to a database of over 40 million records from state DMVs, junk yards, and insurance carriers).

Inspect the Vehicle

A detailed mechanical inspection of a vehicle, should reveal any history of sustaining major damage in the past, including flood-damage or water-damage. It is therefore a good idea to learn how to properly inspect vehicles yourself, or pay a mechanic to do any necessary inspections for you.

Some possible signs of flood-damage or water-damage that you should be on the look out for include:
  • A moldy or rusty smell inside the vehicle.

  • Stains or water residue on the carpets.

  • Rust spots in locations that would normally have minimal contact with water (for example, the dashboard or glove compartment). Look also for rust on any exposed screws in these types of locations.

  • Problems with electrical parts such as the windshield wipers or air conditioner.

  • Rust or signs of corrosion in the vehicle's electrical wiring.

  • Mud or grit in locations you would not normally expect such as alternator crevices, recesses behind relays, behind/in wiring harnesses, etc.

  • Suspicious amounts of rust and corrosion on the under carriage of the vehicle


Hopefully the above tips have alerted you to the possibility of being sold a water-damaged vehicle by an unscrupulous seller. So, take precautions, and consider each vehicle purchase carefully, and that way you should be able to avoid being sold one!

Related Links

Here are some related links and websites:
  • Check Your VIN
    Offers vehicle history reports complete with over 60+ problem checks for a one-time fee of $12.99 per report.

  • How To Buy Cars At Auctions
    With The Present Economic Crisis Theres Never Been A Better Time To Buy Cars At Auctions! This Website Will Provide You With The All Tools You Need To Benefit From The Thousands Of Vehicles Being Sold At Rock Bottom Prices At Auctions.

  • Inspect Before You Buy
    ASE Certified Automotive Technician Teaches You How To Properly Inspect A Used Vehicle.
Here are some related pages on this website:

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