AAA Carolinas Warns Car Buyers of Flooded Cars in Wake of Hurricanes

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

As the areas hit hardest by this past month’s devastating hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma and Maria continue to move forward in the rebuilding phase, AAA Carolinas warns Carolinians to avoid purchasing a vehicle that suffered flood damage.

In many cases, insurance companies deem flood damaged vehicles totaled, which are then sold to salvage companies. However, rather than being disassembled for parts, there are cases of some vehicles that are sold to individuals to restore them – with varying levels of expertise. AAA Carolinas warns car buyers that flood-damaged vehicles will often pop up in the marketplace for many months following a major flood.

“Fresh paint, new upholstery and that ‘new-car smell’ can mask flood damage,” said Greg Pence, Auto Buying Manager for AAA Carolinas. “While services like Carfax can be a good resource for buyers, the only true way of knowing whether a vehicle has suffered flood damage is to have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle.”

The best protection against buying a flood-damaged vehicle is a thorough pre-purchase inspection by a qualified shop such as an AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility. Nearby locations can be found at As a part of their inspection, the shop will look for common indicators of flood damage.

In addition, AAA Carolinas recommends car buyers take the following precautions when shopping:
Engage your sense of smell to detect any damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.

Are the windows fogged up? Has the carpet or upholstery been replaced or recently shampooed? Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.

Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
Look under the vehicle for corrosion. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states.

Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.

Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.

Another good practice that can help prospective buyers avoid flood-damaged cars and trucks is the purchase of a vehicle history report. While such reports don’t always catch everything, more often than not they will indicate when a vehicle has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title, indicating a major problem in its past.