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So the latest storms from the predicted El Niño system passed and your car was a casualty. Flooding on your street turned your sweet ride into a mud-filled mess and you need to replace your now-totaled vehicle. Usually, there is a small increase in available used cars after a flood, and you should have plenty to choose from. But just like your old car was a flood victim, so, too, are some of the vehicles you are considering, with the water damage well hidden.
There are unscrupulous car wholesalers and dealers who take these cars, clean them up, and send them out on the market. Some are from the local area, and some are from out-of-state. It is up to the individual purchaser to heed the old saying of “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Of course, an educated buyer is one less likely to be taken advantage of.
Autotrader has posted some excellent tips for sniffing out (so to speak) flood-damaged vehicles. Naturally, you can’t take the car apart piece by piece, but there are some warning signs you can look for:
- Check under the vehicle’s carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don’t forget the trunk.
- Give the underside of the carpets a sniff test. Do they smell like mildew?
- Mud and debris collect in hard-to-clean spaces, such as under the hood and in the trunk.
- Rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk indicates exposure to excess moisture.
- Mud and debris on the underside of panels and brackets is another good sign the car has been under water.
- If you suspect you are looking at a flood-damaged vehicle, the smart move is to just walk away. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. The alternative is to spring for the cost of having a mechanic give it the once over.
Check with your insurance professional for additional suggestions and resources. While you’re at it, make sure you have the best coverages for your vehicle, home, and business. Be prepared and you won’t be sorry later.