high waterAfter a flood, there is usually a subsequent flood of used cars on the market. Get rich quick hucksters will buy up water damaged vehicles, clean them up and hope the unsuspecting buyer doesn’t find out anything. The real pros will re-title the vehicle to hide there tracks even better.

So what’s a prospective used car buyer to do? If you are in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, there are some steps you can take. Utilizing resources like Carfax or Autocheck are helpful, but sometimes will not tell the whole story. Ultimately, it is up to you the buyer to sniff out any potential damage.

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 advice and suggested resources. Also, be sure you have the proper coverage on any new vehicle purchase before you put it on the road.