The storm that ravaged the East Coast might be over, but Sandy's path of destruction is not. Analysts speculate that the number of vehicles that sustained damage could exceed the estimated 300,000 affected by Hurricane Katrina. So what do you do if your vehicle was damaged by flooding? Or if you're thinking about buying a used car, how can you tell if the used car you want to buy has experienced flood damage? 

We've compiled these tips on what you should do if your car is flooded from our own experiences, as well as from The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and Popular Mechanics.

  • Dry the vehicle as much as possible - do not wait for the claims adjuster to arrive because mold and corrosion could already be setting in. Clean out as much liquid and mud as you can so as to reduce the amount of time the components of your vehicle are exposed to water.
  • Do not start your car until it has been thoroughly cleaned and inspected by a certified technician, otherwise you will add to the damage.
  • Report the exposure of your vehicle to water or flood to your insurance company/agent.
  • Record the highest level of water exposure. This will help qualified technicians evaluate and take the necessary steps to correct the damage.
  • Flush and replace all fluids, oils, and lubricants, replace all filters and gaskets for components exposed to water. You might be able to drive your car, however internal exposure to water will increase the level of damage to your engine and other components.
  • Contact a certified technician to arrange for an inspection and evaluation of all electrical, mechanical and wiring components. Some components may be safe from slight water exposure, but not extensive or prolonged flood exposure.
  • Replace any padded materials in your car that retain moisture so as to prevent mold or mildew from spreading and ultimately adding to the cost of repairs.

If you're a car enthusiast who likes to make your own repairs, you should look at Popular Mechanics' Tips for Drying Out Your Flooded Car to see all the different areas for you to check in order to DIY. Keep in mind that in some cases, the effects of flood damage to your car will not surface until after 90 days when the components begin to corrode. The flood damage to your vehicle can be repaired, but at what cost? Will you be able to sell your car after you make the repairs? can help you figure out the value of your vehicle if you bring it to the branch closest to you for a no-obligation inspection. We are high-volume automobile buyers who focus on our customers receiving the maximum value when selling a used car in a fast, convenient way and we can provide you with a car appraisal based on our expert knowledge and years of experience in the used car business.

If you are looking to buy a used vehicle, Buyers Beware; According to a recent article in The New York Times, many of the vehicles that were damaged by flooding might eventually turn back up on the market. Insurers typically sell cars to the salvage market after a total-loss claim is paid. Flooded vehicles often bear no signs of physical damage, therefore it's easy for con artists to clean them up and sell used cars that are damaged. These cars may still have remnants of flood damage because dirt, contaminants and water can cause major damage and work its way into every crevice of a vehicle. As a potential used car buyer, how can you avoid buying a used car that has flood damage?

One of the best ways to guard against buying a flood damaged vehicle is to learn everything you can about the car's history, including whether it was declared salvage. To help consumers, the National Insurance Crime Bureau created VINCheck, a free search of a car's vehicle identification number (VIN). CarFax charges for a comprehensive vehicle history, but lets you check for free whether a vehicle has been in a flood at However, some states do not brand vehicles as flooded. Another helpful tip is to buy used cars from a reputable dealer, where you can look at online reviews of the company from local customers before you decide to purchase from them.

Most importantly, you should know the signs of flood damage:

  • Smell: Unusual odors, like must or mold, may signal mildew buildup from prolonged exposure to water. Strong air freshener scents may be used in an attempt to mask these smells.
  • Look: Is the upholstery discolored? Large stains or differences in color between lower and upper upholstery sections may indicate that standing water was in the vehicle. New carpeting or upholstery in older vehicles might be hiding serious problems.
  • Inspect: Look for evidence of rust of flaking metal in the undercarriage that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles. Look to see if the owner's manual appears to have been wet, if there are warped fiberboard door panels or glove box interiors.
  • Get Dirty: Check for dirt in unusual places, like seat tracks, carpeting or in/around the glove compartment or trunk. You may even have an independent mechanic check for compacted dirt or mud in crevices and power steering pumps.

With these tips, you will know the steps you should take if your vehicle was damaged in a flood. You'll also be alert and aware of what to look out for in the event that flood damaged vehicles make their way back into the market when you want to buy a used vehicle. Any tips you would add to the list? Tweet them to us.  

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