Is a Flood-Damaged Car Salvageable?

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2 min to read

Floods can be devastating in many ways: properties are destroyed and people lose precious possessions. On top of that, people’s vehicles may retain water and incur damage as a result, leaving them feeling hopeless at the loss of such a large investment. 

Vehicle damage caused by flooding

When a car, truck, van or other personal vehicle is in a flood, various cosmetic and mechanical damage can occur, including:

  • Exterior color fading and/or rusting
  • Mold growing inside around seats and other soft areas
  • Mud accumulating in footwells
  • Water contaminating spark plugs, wires and other electrical parts
  • Strong, musty odor coming from the interior
  • Deterioration of the engine

These effects, when not handled properly, can be detrimental and get worse over time. They can even become dangerous for you and others who drive or ride in your car. 

What to do when your car is damaged

Before you even start the car, have an experienced, professional company come over to inspect it. Vehicles with engine, transmission or electrical damage pose a significant hazard, and unless you are a trained auto mechanic, don’t assume you are able to identify and/or address problems resulting from flood damage.

Word of mouth can be a powerful tool for finding an experienced inspector; ask neighbors, friends and family if they have hired someone in the past that they would recommend. If this effort is unsuccessful, research online for inspectors in your area—but don’t just go with the cheapest option. Browse reviews from other customers and ensure the company or person has the proper licenses and certifications.  

Options for a flood-damaged car

Depending on the type and extent of the damage, consider your options. Cosmetic issues are relatively easy and cheap to resolve, while problems with electrical fixtures or the engine are much more extensive and expensive. Virtually any destruction done to your vehicle can be fixed—it’s up to you to determine whether it’s worth the cost.

If the damage is minor, you can choose to bring the vehicle into a mechanic to have it repaired. Look at your insurance policy as well to determine how much of a repair will be covered. Without insurance, more severe damage may rack up a bill in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to fix, so it may be time to sell the damaged vehicle for parts and purchase a new car. If you choose to go that route and sell your car to a salvage yard, keep these tips in mind:

  • Since the car is damaged, you will likely sell it for significantly less than you originally paid for it. 
  • You will need the vehicle’s title in order to sell it to the salvage company and some businesses may also require your driver’s license or other documents.
  • Some companies will offer more for your car if you take it apart yourself. We do not recommend doing so unless you are experienced working with automobiles.
  • If after inspection you are told not to drive the car, take that order seriously and arrange a tow or auto transporter to bring it to the salvage yard.
  • Remove all personal items and any add-ons or accessories you’d like to keep (e.g., GPS, stereo system or license plates) before handing the vehicle off.
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