“Should I buy a car that was flooded?” This is a question some used car buyers in southern Alberta are asking themselves as a spate of flood-damaged vehicles appear on the market. The answer is always a resounding no, regardless of circumstances. You should never purchase a vehicle that was damaged in a flood, no matter how good a deal you may appear to be getting. You should also be wary of unscrupulous used car dealers and private sellers attempting to unload flood-damaged vehicles on unsuspecting buyers by hiding the car or truck’s true history.
Why Should I Avoid a Flood-Damaged Vehicle?
Vehicles that have been submerged in water suffer major damage to their electrical systems, and may also develop a problem with toxic mold and mildew. Short of completely replacing the vehicle’s entire electrical system and having the mold and mildew professionally remediated, this type of damage is essentially irreparable. It is rarely, if ever, cost-effective to fix these types of problems, so almost all cars that are damaged by floodwaters end up in scrap yards as auto insurance write-offs.
Performing a Vehicle Background Check
One of the first things you should do before you purchase a used vehicle is perform an ownership history search. Check with Alberta’s vehicle registry service to see if the car you’re considering was identified as “non-repairable” as the result of a flood damage insurance claim, or if it was “legally rebuilt” after an insurance claim was filed. If your search turns up evidence that either event took place, do not purchase the vehicle.
You should also be aware that the Insurance Bureau of Canada operates a vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup service. Any vehicles that have been declared non-repairable or legally rebuilt will also turn up in the VIN search.
How to Detect a Flood-Damaged Vehicle
While the aforementioned measures will allow you to detect a flood-damaged vehicle in the vast majority of cases, it is not a foolproof system. Determined fraudsters have ways of hiding the vehicle’s true history and can even change the vehicle’s VIN number. Thus, it’s also essential that you understand how to detect flood damage in a vehicle you’re thinking about buying.
When inspecting a vehicle, look for the following signs of flood damage:
- Look under the floor mats, carpets, headliner cloth and behind the vehicle’s dashboard for evidence of water stains, mildew, silt, sand and road debris
- Check the door panels and the vehicle’s interior upholstery for any signs of fading in patterns consistent with water submersion
- Check the vents, glove compartment and trunk for evidence of flood damage
- Inspect metal surfaces in the interior of the vehicle for evidence of rust; this can indicate that the inside of the car was exposed to water
- Look closely at the engine, wiring, steering column, relays, spare tire compartment and alternator crevice for mud, mold, mildew and rust
- Check the seatbelts for any signs of mildew or moisture
- Ensure all the car’s electrical components, including the instrumentation, turn signals, cigarette lighter, stereo, headlights, windshield wipers, and air conditioner/heater, to make sure they are all fully functional
- See if speakers mounted near the doors are working; if the interior of the vehicle was flooded, these speakers will not work
- Check all aluminum and alloy surfaces beneath the hood to see if there is any evidence of pitting, or if whitish powder is present; if you detect either, it means these surfaces have become oxidized, possibly due to water exposure
Before you finalize the purchase of any vehicle, it’s also a good idea to have a licensed mechanic take a look at it. Your mechanic will also look for evidence of flood damage which may have escaped you, and will be able to detect any problems with the vehicle’s electrical system, mold and mildew, or any other mechanical issues that may have been caused by immersion in water.
Questions? Concerns? Call Lane’s Insurance!
Lane’s Insurance is a full-service Alberta-based insurance brokerage offering the very lowest rates on all your auto insurance needs. The experienced and understanding insurance professionals at Lane’s are brokers, and as such, they work for you, not an insurance company. Lane’s Insurance works hard to protect your best interests every step of the way. If you have any questions about auto insurance, or if you would like to receive a fast, free, no-obligation rate quote, please contact Lane’s Insurance today!