How to avoid buying flood-damaged vehicles

Destruction caused to the east coast by Hurricane Sandy could take several weeks to repair. Part of that damage includes flooded vehicles that will likely end up on dealership lots and sold to unsuspecting consumers.

“A car that’s been in a flood, with the engine submerged for any length of time, will never be the same,” said Carl Sullivan, who has nearly two decades of experience inspecting vehicles for AiM, a California-based team of auto inspectors.  “It’s important for used car shoppers to know how to spot flood damage no matter where they live, because these cars can end up on a dealer lot anywhere in the country.”

So, how can you avoid a water-damaged car?

  • Look for water or condensation in the headlights and taillights. This could be a sign of water damage.
  • Smell the air and materials inside the car. Do they smell musty? Then, it’s probably a good idea to look at a different vehicle
  • If you see mud, be suspicious
  • Check for water in the spare tire or vehicle’s trunk
  • Late-model vehicles will often have a sagging headliner

Look for corrosion located on the undercarriage around brake lines, springs, shock towers or the fuel tank. This is typically a sign of salt water damage

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