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The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has already warned consumers to be alert of fraud while buying used cars.


There are uncountable cars that get damaged by devastating floods every year and do not assume that all those cars land up in the junkyard. Instead, some of them get repaired and sold without the buyers’ knowledge about the car’s past history. So, while buying a used car, be aware of the car’s condition and take extra precautions.

In August 2021, the US faced a destructive storm, Hurricane Ida, and as a result, several areas and cars were flooded and ruined. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has already warned consumers to be alert of fraud while buying used cars. It’s because many fraudsters in the market tried to sell flood-damaged cars to scam people.

So, before you also end up having a flood-damaged car, here’s everything you need to know to avoid buying one.

Facts about flood-damaged cars hitting the market

Purchasing a used car is more cost-effective and reliable than purchasing a brand new one. Unfortunately, with all the advantages, there come some potential risks too. One crucial thing while buying a used car is to check whether the car was damaged by water previously. Otherwise, it can create a serious problem.

Moreover, the demand for used cars is increasing day by day all around the world. It’s due to the worldwide shortage of microchips that slows down car production.

Meanwhile, scammers still try to scam used car buyers by hiding the signs of water damage. If a car fully or partially submerged in the floodwater, it faces severe damage to the engine, electronics part, mechanical system and interior. After Hurricane Ida, flood-damaged vehicles gave an opportunity to the fraudsters to prey on car buyers. 

Moreover, water-damaged cars become unwanted and useless. Car dealers do not buy them because they can’t resell it and private buyers don’t take an interest in such cars. Though they can sell individual parts, it’s time-consuming. So, there’s one option left: the junkyard, where people mostly sell flood-damaged vehicles.

If you also have such a car, there’re many online buyers who can give you the best value for it. All they need is the car’s damage history, model, year and features. Once you submit all the details, they’ll give an instant cash offer. 

But unfortunately, many dishonest companies and car dealers try to make a profit by reselling flood-damaged cars. Though many cars are sold with clear disclosure of water damage, there’re scammers doing “title washing” by erasing the car history and selling them.

There were almost 378,000 flood-damaged cars on the road before Ida. Whereas after the hurricane, now the number is reached to approx 440,000. That’s why NICB alerts everyone to use their online VIN Check tool. Here car buyers can enter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to know whether the car had any severe damage.

How to avoid buying a flood-damaged car?

Though water or flood damage is hard to spot on cars, here’re a few tricks to know if it’s a flood-damaged car and how to avoid buying one.

  • A moldy odor or strong air freshener

Moldy odor, low tide or mildew are the common signs of a flood-damaged car. Once those smells step in, it’s difficult to get rid of them completely. So, while you’re buying a car, sit in it for a few minutes and close the windows and doors. Ensure if you smell something unusual, like a strong air freshener for musty odor. If yes, then it’s water-damaged.

  • Damp or mismatched carpet

The next trick is to check for the carpet in the car. If a part of the car’s interior seems to have a new, shady or waterlogged carpet and floor mat, it’s another possible sign of flood damage.

  • Extreme rust

It’s important to check for rust or corrosion around the door, pedals, hinges, inside the trunk and hood. Also, use a mirror to check for the springs under the seats. Though rust is natural, corrosion, on the other hand, can eat away the car’s materials if after drying. 

  • Moisture in interior and exterior

Make sure to examine the used car’s interior and exterior very carefully. Check for any moisture on the electronics, car seats and gauges in the instrument panel. Additionally, look under the console and dashboard. If you find condensation behind the gauge cluster or radio face, it’s a hint of water damage.

  • Mud, sand and dirt

Are you seeing any mud or debris under the seats and glove compartment? Or is there dirt or grass under the dashboard or in the trunk? Due to water damage, grass, sand or mud are very common to be in the car’s corners, engine and around the wiring. 

  • Rubber drain plugs

Check if the rubber drain plugs on the doors or under the cars have been removed. If yes, that has been done to drain the floodwater.

Additionally, look for fogs on lights, damp spots or water stains, brittle wires and lastly, consult with a car mechanic. In this way, you can avoid buying a flood-damaged car and stay safe.