How To Avoid Buying A Flooded Vehicle

When you’re in the market for a vehicle, you want to choose a reliable car or truck. Dealerships or private owners may inadvertently or purposefully try to sell you a vehicle that’s been recovered from a flood, though. Protect yourself when you know the signs of a flooded vehicle.

Perform a Visual Inspection

Car buyers of all experience levels can look at a vehicle and see several signs of flood damage.

Dirt and Mud

Flooding can deposit dirt and mud throughout the vehicle. Check for this flood evidence under the hood, inside the car, on the seat tracks, in the glove compartment, and on the undercarriage.


Discolored or stained carpets and upholstery in the trunk or lower section of the car may indicate that the vehicle sat underwater. Other flood signs include new carpets or upholstery in an older car.


If you smell a musty aroma when you sit in the car or turn on the air conditioner, the car may have survived a flood. A strong cleaning solution or air freshener scent may also indicate that someone tried unsuccessfully to remove mold or mildew.

Water Lines

Visible water lines on a vehicle may indicate that it sat underwater. Check the headlight lenses, reflectors, interior upholstery, and trunk for this evidence.


Unpainted metal and exposed screws will quickly rust when exposed to water. Look all over the vehicle for these and other signs of rust.

Drain Plugs

When a vehicle floods, the owner may remove the rubber drain plugs at the bottom of the doors and under the car and drain the water. Inspect these two areas to ensure the drain plugs remain intact.

Hire a Certified Mechanic

A vehicle damaged in a Florida flood could show up for sale in Oregon with no visible signs of damage, so ask a certified mechanic you trust to inspect the vehicle before you buy it. The mechanic can check the internal engine parts for evidence of electrical or mechanical water damage.

Check the Vehicle’s History

Before you purchase a vehicle, do an online search. Start with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website. Here, you can review the vehicle’s VIN and see if it was ever involved in a flood damage claim. You can also search the CARFAX website for details about a vehicle’s history.

Buy from a Reputable Seller

Whether you purchase from a dealer or an individual, research the seller before you sign a contract. Read online reviews online or ask previous customers for honest feedback.

With this checklist, you can avoid buying a flooded vehicle. You can also contact your insurance agent for information about potential vehicles before you make a purchase.