Don't get soaked by purchasing a car with water damage

By , Posted on 03 November 2012

Next month might not be the best time to buy a used car, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

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Prices of cars up to 8-years-old are slated to jump by .5 percent to 1.5 percent in December as a result of Superstorm Sandy, according to the dealers association.

About 250,000 used cars were destroyed by the storm, which will squeeze an already tight market for late-model used cars in solid condition, according to the NADA.

There's also a chance you'll see more cars with water damage make their way on to the market. (See: "The secret world of disastrous cars.")

If you're thinking of buying a used car, even if live hundreds of miles away from where a natural disaster has recently struck, you should check for water damage. In some cases, cars that have been flooded are totaled by an insurance company, sold at auction, then shipped to other regions where dealers refurbish them and resell them. (See: "Know the warning signs before you buy a flood-damaged car.")

Here are some tips from for vetting a used vehicle for water damage:

  • Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic prior to purchase
  • Check the title, but remember: a car's title will show that it's been in a flood only if it was officially totaled by an auto insurance company.
  • Flex wires under the dashboard -- if they crack, the car likely had water damage.
  • Check for moisture in the gauges on the dashboard and for rust in the interior and trunk.

If your car was flooded and you want to keep it, be aware of the steps you need to take if your car is totaled and you still want to drive it. (See: "Driving your car after it's totaled: how to obtain a title and insurance.")

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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.


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