What To Do With A Flood-Damaged Car
There are an estimated 200,000 flood-damaged car on the road today with even more in the scrap yard. Floods associated with severe rainstorms or hurricanes account for the majority of them. Some cars may survive flooding events just fine, while others may have sustained severe damage. It isn’t always easy to tell at first just what the situation in your car may be. If you have a flood-damaged car, follow these steps when trying to repair or replace it.
What to do with a Flood-Damaged Car
Never attempt to start your car if floodwaters entered your vehicle. Water in the transmission, gas line, or engine can cause extensive and expensive damage. Have your car towed to a repair shop for a thorough inspection by a professional mechanic. Call your insurance agent and explain the situation. Depending on the exact situation, the damage may be covered by your policy. If water did not enter the engine compartment, you can likely dry out and restore your car on your own.
If many cars were damaged, it may be some time before your adjuster can look at your car. You do not have to wait for him in order to dry the car out. You can be proactive here and take photos or video of the damage, then try to remove as much water from the car as you can. This will avoid the threat of mold moving into your car. Salt water is a powerful corrosive that damaged metal and electrical systems.
Use a pump to remove as much water from the trunk as possible. Remove everything and keep the trunk open to promote air movement. Open up the doors, remove all of the floor mats, and allow the interior of the car to dry out as much as possible. You may want to park it in the sunlight and put some fans around the car to speed up the drying process. Circulating air will help prevent mold from growing in your vehicle.
Depending on the extent of the damage, the cost of repairs, and the value of your vehicle, you can then choose to repair or replace it. If you plan to replace it, you have alternatives for dealing with a flood-damaged car. You can sell the car to a scrap, salvage, or junkyard. It’s also possible that you can sell or trade in the car. While the flood will drastically impact a vehicle’s value, you may still get a decent deal on a replacement vehicle. Some car manufacturers have auto-exchange programs in place. The company will then resell the vehicle as a pre-owned, salvage title, or flood-damaged car. This is legal as long as full disclosure is made.
Protecting Your Car from Flood Damage
The best way to protect a vehicle is to park it on high ground. Above ground parking garages are ideal for this, but any high ground offers some protection from flooding. If you park your car on a hill, try to choose a section that is nearly flat or only gently sloped. While unlikely, your car could slide if that area is highly sloped.
To protect your car from flooding and winds associated with a hurricane, an above ground parking garage is one of the best options. Park your car towards the interior of the structure, preferably near the elevator shafts.
Avoid driving your car through a flood. This protects your vehicle, but also you and your passengers. Fast-moving floodwaters can quickly sweep your car away. Wait out the flood on the highest ground available. If your car is caught in flood waters, abandon it and move to a safe area. If possible, use your phone camera to document what is happening to your vehicle. This will come in handy when filing an insurance claim.
How to Determine if You’re Buying a Flood-Damaged Car
Severe storms and hurricanes leave thousands of abandoned and flood-damaged cars in their wake. While it is legal to sell these cars, some unscrupulous people will try to sell these cars without disclosing the damage.
Most standard auto insurance policies will not cover vehicles with extensive damage. If you knowingly or unknowingly purchase a flood-damaged car, you will not be able to submit those repairs to your insurance.
When considering a used vehicle, know how and where to look for signs that the vehicle has been in a flood, and avoid any dealer that tries to pass off a flood-damaged car. You can easily find reputable dealers in your area by talking to family and friends, as well as checking the Better Business Bureau.
Examine the car thoroughly, looking for evidence of mold, mildew, silt, and debris in places you wouldn’t normally find it, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or within the engine compartment. Look for rusty screws or other metal parts, as well as water stains or faded upholstery and discolored seat belts and door panels.
Check the flooring for dampness, as well as moisture or condensation on the inside of the instrument panel. Moldy odors or other intense smells are almost always a dead giveaway that there is a water problem. The same goes for smells of Lysol or other deodorizers. Some sellers will use them to cover up odors from water damage.
If you are concerned you might be buying a car with previous flood damage, there are several ways to protect yourself.
- Check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with state and federal government agencies to determine if the vehicle has a questionable or salvage title.
- Check is the upholstery has been shampooed recently.
- Pull up the carpet to look for signs of mud or dirt that most detailers would overlook when cleaning a car.
- Open all doors, the trunk, and the hood to check for corrosion, a clear sign of flood damage.
- Check electrical parts for signs of wear or damage, as well as for water lines in the engine compartment or trunk.
- Don’t neglect the flood-damaged practice of “going with your gut”. If a deal sounds too sweet to be true, it almost always is. Look elsewhere for a quality vehicle.
Floods can have long-lasting effects on all of your property, but cars tend to suffer the most water damage. Take proper precautions before a flood and let the professionals take over after a flood to ensure that you get the best possible resolution to your flooding problems.