How to Avoid Buying a Vehicle That Was Damaged in a Flood

How to Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Car in San Diego, CA

It may seem unlikely, but there are thousands of flood-damaged cars on the market, which is especially common after hurricane disasters. After a flood, a car is branded to change its title to salvaged, and about half of all vehicles with salvaged titles are eventually resold and make their way all over the United States. Most are private-party sales, but it’s possible for these flood-damaged cars to end up at used car dealerships. If you plan to buy a used car, purchasing reliable San Diego car insurance isn’t the only thing that needs to be on your list. There are several steps you can take to make sure you aren’t buying a water-damaged car that will be more trouble than it’s worth.

Check the Vehicle History Report

You can use the car’s vehicle identification number to check the car’s history through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, AutoCheck, and CarFax. Researching the car’s history is an easy way to see if it has experienced some type of reported damage such as an accident or a flood. CarFax and AutoCheck usually show title brands by state during the vehicle’s history to help you detect mismatched title branding.

Beware of “Title Washers”

A common way to unload flood-damaged cars is by moving them to states with more lenient titling laws. Title washing allows sellers to change their vehicle titles to hide the salvaged status and sell them as regular used cars, and it can happen when a car is moved to a state with different branding requirements, such as exempting cars of a certain age from branding or not having flood branding at all. These damaged cars may have a clean title due to these issues, so you shouldn’t make assumptions without having the car checked.

Have the Car Inspected

It isn’t enough to check the car’s vehicle history report. There are many ways for damage to fall through the cracks. For example, it can take months for a vehicle to be retitled after an accident, and some states do not have branding laws at all. If the car was never insured, it would never have an insurance claim to declare it a total loss, which is why it’s smart to have a used car inspected by a mechanic you trust.

Look for Warning Signs

In addition to the steps above, you can look for the following warning signs when considering a used car:

  • Be suspicious of musty or moldy odors or the aroma of heavy deodorant.
  • Check the carpets to see if they are stained, musty, caked in mud, or look like new replacements. Don’t be afraid to pull back the carpet in the trunk and car to look for rust or signs of water damage.
  • Check under the seats, which are usually removed to dry out a car. Look at the bolts and seat mounts to see if they have been wrenched, and check the springs under the seats for rust.
  • Look under the hood. You may see evidence of silt in the nooks and crannies, water stains on the air filter, or evidence of a water line on the inner fenders.

When you’ve purchased a vehicle you’re comfortable with, get in touch with American Tri-Star for affordable auto insurance quotes. San Diego drivers can request a free quote online or speak with one of our knowledgeable agents at 619-272-2100.