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How to Spot a Hurricane Damaged Vehicle?

  • By Ryan Skidmore

  1. The Smell. Water damaged cars will have a musky smell or stink. (hurricane-flood-damaged-cars-could-end-up-in-nebraska-and-iowa) Some areas inside the car will not dry completely for a long time, if ever. There may also be a risk of mold. The smell alone should be a huge sign.
  2. Crunching sound when moving seats forward and back. Sand or debris can get on the rails that enable seats to move forward and back. These left-overs can be heard and felt when the seat position is adjusted.
    (hurricane-flood-damaged-cars-could-end-up-in-nebraska-and-iowa) These rails are very difficult to clean completely. Also, they are a less obvious sign of water damage, making them a lower priority for scammers fixing and selling water damaged vehicles.
  3. Price is too good to be true. If the price is too low for a vehicle’s age and condition, look for other signs of water damage. (hurricane-flood-damaged-cars-could-end-up-in-nebraska-and-iowa) Context is everything for this sign. Without other telltales, the issue might not be water damage.
  4. Carfax reports it was in a hurricane prone state during a major hurricane. Carfax reports are a major indicator of issues to look for. (hurricane-flood-damaged-cars-could-end-up-in-nebraska-and-iowa) While such issues might not be immediately apparent, a thorough search might yield some interesting results, like major water damage.
  5. Dirt or corrosion in small crevices. Sand and debris in flood waters can work their way into parts of the interior and undercarriage that are difficult to clean.
    (hurricane-flood-damaged-cars-could-end-up-in-nebraska-and-iowa) Seeing unusual amounts sand and debris these areas is a sign of submersion. Corrosion will also appear in these areas. Scammers will only clean and repair enough to sell a vehicle.
  6. Brand new or overly clean upholstery. Upholstery is the most telling sign of water damage and it is very easy replace or repair compared to other regions of the vehicle.  (10-ways-to-spot-flood-damaged-car) Upholstery is also one of the most obvious signs of water damage, so, total replacement is worth the time for scammers.
  7. Discolored engine oil. Water can infiltrate the engine block during a flood, pale colored engine oil could signal the presence of water. (10-ways-to-spot-flood-damaged-car) Cooling an engine is a solo gig for oil. Water, or any other companion fluid, could weaken oil’s power and damage the engine. Equally important, water in the engine block accompanies water damage to the electronic components at the same level around the rest of the vehicle.
  8. Moisture in the headlights and instrument panels. Some parts of a vehicles keep moisture much longer than other, like the headlights and instrument panel just under the dashboard. (10-ways-to-spot-flood-damaged-car) Headlights will have condensation and instrument panels will appear foggy. These components might still function indefinitely and are signs of wider water damage rather a concern themselves.
  9. Check that all electronics work properly. Water damage can affect one part of a vehicle and leave others alone. Testing all of them for consistency can reveal water damage.
  10. Get it checked by a mechanic. If there is reasonable, or any, suspicion that a vehicle has been water damaged, paying for an inspection by a professional mechanic can save a lot of money by avoiding a faulty purchase. (In-hurricanes-wake-experts-warn-of) Water damage problems can surface at any time, usually being extensive and expensive.


Lastly. These 10 steps will help you avoid making a bad decision on the purchase of a vehicle.  Once the purchase has been made another great advice is to incorporate a fleet management solution for your vehicle.  Having this type of solution in place can further reduce your risks of vehicle damages.  Most fleet management solutions will notify you right away when there is a problem with the engine through the check engine light.  This will allow you to immediately have the vehicle inspected and fixed before the problem is exacerbated.  Being extra careful when purchasing a vehicle and implementing a fleet management solution in your fleet are two key ways in which to reduce your risks and avoid any unforeseen costs.

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