• Karolena Serratos

How to Spot a Flood Damaged Car

Flooding seems to be inevitable. It's important to be prepared, but just in case your find yourself in the position of purchasing a used car, educate yourself on how to spot a flood car. Here is are tips from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles on How to Spot a Flood Damaged Car.


Recent floods and hurricanes have left a considerable sum of flood-damaged vehicles. A vehicle submerged in water has sustained severe damage, especially when water enters the passenger compartment. Modern vehicles with electronics are particularly at risk as damaged computer chips may result in damage to the engine. While cleaning a vehicle improve the appearance, mold and residues may remain. These "cleaned" vehicles are finding their way back into the stream of commerce.


It is not illegal to sell a vehicle flood damage. The problem is to know what you are buying. Many states do not have flood-damaged brands on their titles. Some states brand the title as "rebuilt". Even looking at the title is not always helpful either. Unscrupulous sellers may "wash" the title of a flood-damaged or rebuilt vehicle by retitling the vehicle through several states to remove the flood brand.


There is no sure method to test for flood damage. While these inspections suggestions will not detect flood damage in every case, the use of this checklist will reduce the chances of buying a water-logged vehicle.


  • Have a reputable mechanic inspect the vehicle.

  • Be extremely careful when buying a car with a "rebuilt" brand on the title; some consumer advocates say avoid them all together.

  • Look under carpets to see if the floor is wet, damp or muddy.

  • Check for musty or recently shampooed carpet.

  • Check under the floofboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.

  • Check the seating-mounting screws to see if there is any evidence of rust or that they were removed to dry the carpets.

  • Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where the water would normally not reach unless submerged.

  • Looking for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for any evidence of fading.

  • Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.

  • Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor from the upholstery, carpet or trunk.

  • Check the rubber drain plugs under the car and on the bottom of doors. If they look as if they have been removed recently, it might have been done to drain floodwater.

  • Inspect the undercarriage of the other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not be normally be associated with late model vehicles.

  • Check for mud or grit in the alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.

  • Complete a detail inspection of electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.

  • Inspect lights; a water line may show on the lens or the reflector.

  • Look for mud and debris in difficult-to-clean places, such as the gaps between panels in the trunk, and under the hood, and on the bottom edges of brackets or panels where it couldn't naturally settle.

  • Check the vehicle's title history, it may state whether it has sustained flood damage.

  • Be careful of vehicles that have been titled several times over a short period.

  • Look for an insurance company's name on the title history.

  • Check to see if vehicle has been titled or registered in a flood-affected area.