How to Avoid Buying Flood-Damaged Cars After Hurricane Ian

A car drives through high water from the effects from Hurricane Ian.

A cars and truck drives through high water from the results from Hurricane Ian, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Charleston, S.C. Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Besides leaving a course of death and damage in its wake, Hurricane Ian has another tradition: Catastrophic flooding possibly harmed more than 350,000 automobiles, according to brand-new price quotes from Carfax.

Car consumers require to be conscious that these waterlogged automobiles will quickly be appearing — in camouflage — all over the nation. Some dubious secondhand vehicle lots (envision that!) will unlawfully attempt to conceal these flood-damaged automobiles by acquiring brand-new titles for them, passing them off as beautiful.

“Cosmetically these cars might look great, but if you don’t know what to look for, it’s nearly impossible to tell they’re literally rotting from the inside out,” Carfax spokesperson Emilie Voss stated in a news release. “Flood water can cause mechanical, electrical, health and safety issues in a vehicle, even if it was submerged for only a short time.”

Inevitably, thousands and countless these cars and trucks will be resold to unwary purchasers, like the approximately 400,000 flood-damaged cars and trucks that Carfax price quotes are presently on the roadway — mainly from other current cyclones.

How can you secure yourself if you’re purchasing an utilized vehicle? Don’t concern, we’ve got your back.

Flood-Damaged Vehicles: Not Just a Southern Problem

This isn’t simply an issue in southeastern states that normally get struck by cyclones.

Texas and Florida — cyclone magnets — lead the country when it concerns the variety of flood-damaged cars and trucks on the roadway. But Carfax discovers that these automobiles likewise appear in states where cyclone flooding isn’t precisely a problem.

Carfax’s information reveals these 10 states have the most flood-damaged cars:

States With the Most Flood-Damaged Autos

StateFlood-Damaged Vehicles
Texas 67,000
Florida 33,500
Kentucky 26,000
Pennsylvania 21,500
New Jersey 18,800
North Carolina 15,600
New York 14,600
California 14,200
Illinois 13,300
Michigan 11,400

Many of these flooded cars and trucks are the tradition of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida in 2017; and Hurricane Ida, which struck Louisiana in 2021 however likewise triggered huge flash flooding throughout the Northeast.

After Ida travelled through, New Jersey and New York saw the greatest 1 year spikes in the variety of flood-damaged cars and trucks, according to Carfax.

How to Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Used Car

We assembled useful suggestions from Carfax, the vehicle stock site Edmunds and other specialists to assist you prevent acquiring a car that’s been harmed by flood waters.

Buy From a Reputable Dealer

To prevent being defrauded into acquiring a flood-damaged secondhand vehicle, your most safe bet is to purchase from a relied on dealer. These dealerships have a track record to support and will likely offer you with a comprehensive automobile history report.

Get a Vehicle History Report

We extremely suggest getting a Carfax automobile history report if you believe flood damage.

A lorry history report will consist of lots of pertinent info, like states in which the vehicle has actually been signed up. Edmunds likewise advises an inexpensive ($7 or less) report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which will information whether the vehicle has actually been restored, to name a few bottom lines.

You need to likewise utilize the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck service to compare a pre-owned vehicle’s VIN versus a database of cars and trucks that have actually been amounted to (consisting of due to flood damage).

At, Carmax has a complimentary “Flood Check” tool where you can merely enter the vehicle’s VIN. It likewise has a flood damage list and a nationwide map that reveals where flooded cars and trucks are cleaning up.

Trust Your Senses, however Also a Mechanic’s

When you’re checking an utilized vehicle, keep an eye out for these warnings:

  • Foul smells, especially mold and mildew. These smells can signify that a cars and truck has actually remained in standing water for an extended quantity of time.
  • Discolored carpets or rusted metal. Stains in carpets or seat materials are likewise indications of standing water. Rust on the body or the undercarriage suggests extreme water direct exposure, especially in more recent cars and trucks.
  • Inexplicable dirt accumulation, like in the trunk or along the seat tracks. This is an indication that mud entered locations where muddy feet normally do not take a trip.
  • Water accumulation in headlights and taillights. Fogginess in the lighting can likewise suggest extended water direct exposure.
  • Mismatching parts, like seat products compared to flooring mats. A smart seller might change a harmed flooring mat, hoping you won’t observe that it isn’t a best match to the other mats or the seat material.

As an included preventative measure, have actually a relied on mechanic offer the automobile a once-over prior to you sign on the dotted line. Avoid any seller who’s uneasy with you taking the vehicle to a mechanic.

If you do believe a dealer or personal seller of purposefully offering a flood-damaged automobile, call your regional authorities or the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Follow These Tips Every Time

When it concerns utilized cars and trucks, all of this is in fact excellent long-lasting suggestions. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Ida and Ian have actually put numerous countless flood-damaged automobiles into our country’s utilized vehicle lots and onto our roadways.

From the appearances of things, they won’t be the last significant cyclones to threaten the U.S. this years. Global warming and all that.

But particularly if you’re purchasing an utilized automobile in the next year or two, be on the alert for flooded-out cars and trucks.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior author at The Penny Hoarder. Freelance author Timothy Moore added to this short article.


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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