Like us!
Follow us!
Follow us!
Watch us!
Follow us!

Flood Damaged Cars Are “Ticking Timebombs”

Flood Damaged Cars Are “Ticking Timebombs” - The Beacon


By: Jackie

Flood Damaged Cars Are “Ticking Timebombs”

Hurricane Sandy is barely a month behind us and consumer advocates are warning car buyers to be on the alert for flood damaged cars.  Rosemary Shahan, President of CARS (Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety), said, “Flood cars are ticking timebombs.”  The NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) released preliminary figures on November 26, 2012.  They said that 230,000 insurance claims have been submitted for flood damaged cars and expect more to come.  People across the country need to be on the lookout for these cars because “flood damaged cars can be shipped across the country in a matter of days,” according to Rosemary Shahan, President of NCL (National Consumers League).

In the past, about half of the vehicles damaged in floods appear on the market.  It’s legal to sell a flood-damaged car, but it is illegal to sell a flood damaged car without disclosing that fact to the consumer.  A New York Times article said that in 2009 the Justice Department began requiring insurers to register vehicles designated total losses in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System within 30 days of the designation.  This has cut down on so-called title-washing.  Salvage yards, dealerships, and car-rental businesses must also report totaled vehicles.  These reports can be found at

There are other resources consumers can check for reports on flood damaged vehicles.  The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System will give consumers a vehicle history report for a fee of up to $12.99 at  Carfax allows consumers to check for free whether a vehicle has been in a flood at  Consumers can also go to NICB’s for free access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies.

From CARS, NCL, and Consumer Reports here are some tips and steps to take before purchasing:

Get the VIN number and trace the vehicle history

Use the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System ($3 to $13)

Get the vehicle inspected by your own independent auto technicial

Insist on seeing the title to the car before you buy

Words to watch out for are flood, junk, salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed; just because a car has a clean title, it does not mean the car is OK, you should still run a vehicle history check

Look for signs that your car may have been submerged such as musty smell or “over perfumed,” mold/mildew, silt or residue in dashboard dials, under the wheel well, in gaps between panels in the trunk and under the hood

Look at the heads of any un-painted, exposed screws under the dashboard

Check the seat-mounting screws to see if there is any evidence that they have been removed because to dry the carpets, the seats must be removed

Inspect the lights for visible water lines on the lens or reflector

Title or registration histories indicating the car was in a flood area

Look for a telltale waterline on the sides and back of the engine

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

For more information you can trust, see

How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

Flooded Cars May Turn Up For Sale

Water Damaged Vehicles Could Flood Used Car Market

Flooding and Car Insurance

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply


Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.