Tips for Avoiding Buying A Used Car that Has Been Flooded

Car Flood Insurance

Occasionally, when you are in the market to buy a used car, the middleman car buyer will hide the flood-damage history of the car intentionally. This is referred to as ‘title washing’. Once the flood water has receded from the car, it can leave it damaged which eventually causes problems for you down the road after you purchase the car.

This is why it’s a good idea to know how to avoid buying a used car that has been flooded. Below are some tips to know if you are about to purchase a car that has been previously flooded.


A good way to spot a car that has flood damage before you buy it is to take a look at the title. Typically, a vehicle that has flood damage will come with a salvage title. Although you can still get some value out of a salvage car, cars that have flood damage can harm the reliability of the car and should be avoided. If you do decide to buy a car that comes with a salvage title, be sure flood damage is not the reason behind this title.


You can often notice water damage. For instance, if you spill water on a couch or other fabric, after it dries, you will still notice a ring that doesn’t go away. Examine the car for marks on the interior fabrics like:

  • Upholstery
  • Rugs
  • Seat Belts
  • Ceiling Fabric

If the fabric has been updated recently, this could be a red flag, particularly if all the fabric doesn’t match or if it’s an older car that has a new rug in it.


Investigate the car for unusual smells. If you notice a moldy or musty smell to the interior of the car, it could indicate that the car was exposed to water for a prolonged period and has mildew buildup. This buildup could be located in an area of the car that the seller was unable to get to clean up. In addition, if you notice a strong cleaning solution or air freshener scent, this could also be an indication that the seller is covering something up. Check for moldy scents coming from the vents by running the air-conditioner.


A good sign that you could be buying a flood-damaged used car is if you notice rust on the console screws or other areas of the car that indicates the car was submerged into water.


Check the alternator crevices, spare tire compartment, relays and power steering pumps for grit or mud. You should also check around the starter motors and behind wiring harnesses as well.

VIN Check

Contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to learn the car’s history. You can also typically locate the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the driver’s side of the car at the bottom of the windshield to see if it is a salvage vehicle by checking it against the NICB’s database.

It might take a little leg work to ensure the used car you are about to buy doesn’t have flood damage. In the end, it will be worth the effort.

If you have any questions about a used car purchase or getting an auto insurance policy, contact us here at BOLT Insurance Agency at 1-800-216-4171. 

For a free auto insurance quote from BOLT Insurance Agency, click here.