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Used Car Shoppers: Beware of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Posted on September 26, 2017

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted as many as 1 million vehicles, according to Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book analysts, and the effects of these events extend beyond those with severely damaged vehicles.

Used-car prices are likely to spike – the result of lower supply and higher demand.

In addition, used-car shoppers – even those beyond the impacted regions – need to be careful to avoid purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle from unscrupulous parties. Whatever the circumstance, Kelley Blue Book's expert editorial team is here to provide guidance.

Kelley Blue Book Offers These Tips for Used Car Shoppers in Affected Areas (and Beyond):

Q: What's the surest way to avoid buying a flood-damaged car?

A: Obtain a vehicle history report (Autocheck is a Kelley Blue Book partner) and visually inspect the vehicle for the many telltale signs of flooding, including silt residue under the carpet or under the dash. If you can't tell or you're not sure, pay the relatively small fee to have a mechanic evaluate the car (which is never a bad idea any time you buy a used vehicle).

Q: Can I get a great deal on a flood-damaged car?

A: Generally speaking, we recommend steering far clear of any vehicle that's been involved in a flood. Given the higher likelihood of future problems and the eventual resale-value implications, the chances of finding a diamond in the rough are pretty slim.

Q: I don't live anywhere near Texas or Florida; do I need to be concerned?

A: Yes. Unscrupulous parties can obtain a flood-damaged car for very cheap, "clean" the title by registering it in a different state, and then sell it in another state for full value by passing it off as an unaffected vehicle.

Remember, it sometimes takes months for flood damage to evidence itself in a car. For instance, soaked wiring harnesses can take time to corrode, and short out. Immersed body panels often rust from the inside out.

In other words, just because a flood-damaged vehicle seems fine, doesn’t mean that it is. Buying such a vehicle can bring one problem after another. Buyer beware.