There is often a glut of used vehicles on the market after a heavy rainstorm and/or flood. Sometimes they are from the local area, sometimes out-of-state dealers send them here. Used car buyers need to be extra vigilant in these situations because very often the vehicles will have water-damage. Many times the seller is up-front about this, but other times, they are not. It is up to the purchaser to determine which is which.

Autotrader has posted some excellent tips for sniffing out (so to speak) flood-damaged vehicles. Naturally, you can’t take the car apart piece by piece, but there are some warning signs you can look for:

  • Check under the vehicle’s carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don’t forget the trunk.
  • Give the underside of the carpets a sniff test. Do they smell like mildew?
  • Mud and debris collect in hard-to-clean spaces, such as under the hood and in the trunk.
  • Rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk indicates exposure to excess moisture.
  • Mud and debris on the underside of panels and brackets is another good sign the car has been under water.
  • If you suspect you are looking at a flood-damaged vehicle, the smart move is to just walk away. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. The alternative is to spring for the cost of having a mechanic give it the once over.

You can also do yourself a favor should your own vehicle incur damage due to flooding. Be sure a duplicate vehicle registration and insurance card — with the company’s claims number — are in a safe place. You may also want to take photos of your vehicle’s interior and exterior to compare with any damage that may occur.

Your insurance professional is an excellent resource for advising you what other steps you can take to protect your investment.