Buyer beware: How to spot a flooded car

Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 5:39 PM EDT
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(09/12/17) - Mechanics at get under every vehicle before they buy it. And, they say there are some simple checks you can do, too, without the expert tools.

"If you're looking at a car and it's half the price of everybody else's, then there's a reason for it," explained Sales Manager Andy Welsh.

He says that's your first red flag the vehicle was previously under flood waters.

Next, Welsh says, check for a smell.

"If it's been submerged in water, you can smell it. I don't care what you use on it, eventually it comes back out," he says.

You could find that stench or even sand, in the carpet, seats and especially the trunk, where the spare tire is located.

"That's, you know, one of the places people forget because it holds water; and so, I mean, you can go in there and you can check," Walsh explained. "If it's flooded, that holds a lot of water, so it will smell."

And Welsh says, always check the vehicle's history through Carfax or AutoCheck.

"When an insurance company pays a claim out on a car, they report it to Carfax, they report it to several agencies and there's a record of that," Welsh said. "And, it's ones that maybe they didn't have full coverage insurance and they got flooded, it's people like that that are going to look to try to get whatever they can for that car."

Welsh says most importantly, get the vehicle inspected.

"Whether you're buying third party, even buying a dealer. We recommend here, if you want to buy a car, absolutely, you can take it to your mechanic," he said.

Because they'll be able to do a more thorough check, focusing on what it looks like underneath the car.

Welsh explained, "We'll pull the carpet, we'll look, you know, because things will start to rust, they'll show signs of it pretty quickly."

Signs pushing you to put the checkbook away.

"Because if it has been through a flood," Welsh added. "Then it's really never going to be right again."