Flood damage to cars

Flood damage to cars.jpg

A week ago, when the remnants of Hurricane Ike passed by, we had a series of flash floods that did a good chunk of damage in the midwest. My sister’s car got filled with muddy water as a result of one of these flash floods. She filed a claim with her insurance company (AAA) for the damage and I just talked to her yesterday about how everything is going with it.

There have been a few lessons that she (and me as well) has learned about flood damage to cars…

Watch where you park your car

She told me that she was parked in the absolute lowest spot on the parking lot. Obviously, if there were going to be a flash flood, the water would fill those lowest areas first. Most of the other cars on the lot weren’t even at a risk of getting flooded, her car just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

If you do have flood damage to your car – don’t clean it!

After she found out that her car had been flooded, she did what most of us would naturally do: she started cleaning it. This seems like it would be a good idea, but it now turns out that since she did such a good job cleaning it that the insurance company is not being very generous for the repairs. My hunch is that they think she may be filing a false claim. The damage appraiser from the insurance company appraised the damage way below what it will likely cost to fix, I know they normally go a little low, but this isn’t even in the ballpark. The repair shop that is going to be fixing the car said they have never had a flooded car that wasn’t totaled as a result of the extensive damage from the flood. So, when the insurance company is only estimating a small fraction of what it will likely cost, it makes me wonder.

Take pictures of the flood damage

This is something most of us know to do when we are in a car accident. But when you are not even sure you will be filing a claim, it can be easy to overlook. Pictures of the flood damage could be even more important than an accident, because often times much of the obvious indicators (mud, sticks, plants, etc) can quickly be removed. Pictures proving that the car was in that condition can be very helpful when dealing with insurance companies.

No one wants to buy a flood damaged car

Doing a bit of research about flood damaged cars, my sister quickly came to the conclusion that no one really wants to buy a flood car. She found page after page talking about why you should never buy a car that has been in a flood or how to tell if a car has had flood damage. Since there have been so many hurricanes and floods in recent years this seems to be a cause for concern when buying a used car.

Once a car has had flood damage..

  • Any remaining warranty is voided
  • Electrical and mechanical components will probably fail early
  • Mold and mildew can be very difficult to get rid of

So, it becomes very clear why no one wants a flooded car.

These are a few things to look out for if you are not sure if a car is a flood car…

  • Check the interior – Examine the trunk, glove compartment, dashboard and beneath the seats for signs of mud, rust or silt. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. If the carpeting doesn’t match the interior or fits loosely, it may have been replaced.
  • Equipment test -Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
  • Use your nose -Smell for musty odors resulting from mildew and look for a well-defined line or watermark.
  • Get it inspected – Go to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. Always get vehicles checked BEFORE handing over any money.
  • Carfax – Get a Carfax vehicle history report. They can reveal many hidden problems in a vehicle’s past, including flood titles and will indicate if a vehicle has been titled/registered in at-risk areas during flood and hurricane seasons.

Do you have any stories about flood damage to any of your cars?

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  1. Thom

    ok so i was looking into buying a flooded car, the seller was honest enought to write flooded on the window. Also its very low in price, but i was wondering the risks of buyin a flooded car….

  2. Ben

    Flood-damaged or not, any car with a musty, damp smell should immediately put you off. Even if the car *hasn’t* suffered from serious water damage a damp smell might suggest a faulty sunroof, leaky windows or general damp in the vehicle. Either way damp in a car is generally a bad sign IMHO.