How to spot a flood-damaged car before you drive off the lot

Flood-damaged vehicles sold without disclosing the damage is illegal in most states, but that does not mean it will not happen.

Consumer Reports Auto Editor, Jon Linkov said, "Too often, when an insurance company declares a flood-damaged car a total loss, that information isn't communicated to potential buyers."

Consumer Reports found that some flood-damaged vehicles are sold with clean titles -- meaning a flood-damaged car could easily find its way back into the used-car market. If a car does not carry maximum insurance, flood-damage may not be disclosed in the car's title.

Consumer Reports says a mechanic should conduct a thorough inspection, but there are things you can do too.

"The first thing you want to do is come over to the front of the car. Inhale and see if there's any kind of moldy or musty smell. If you have that you definitely want to walk away from the car.

Next, pop up the trim panel on the side of the door here. If the carpet is dirty, or if there's any kind of sediment in here or rust.

Also look in the door pockets. If there's any kind of sediment in here or dirt or stones, that's what happened when the water came up and into the car, and as it drained away it settled and hid in there.

Pop off some of the caps and covers for the seat bolts. If these are scratched up or even look rusted, that means the seat was taken out so it could air dry.

Look where a spare tire would be kept. If it's got sound deadening, smell if it's musty or moldy smelling. See if there's any rust on exposed screws, on the panels, or even on the tools like the jack or the jack stand.

Look along the back of the engine bay, and there's some soft material here, it's sound deadening. When the water rose and stays when the car is flooded, it's going to recede and leave a flood line. If there's anything like that, walk away from the vehicle."

And although helpful, Consumer Reports says vehicle history reports are no guarantee that a car is problem-free.
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