If you need a new car, but don’t want to spend the money for a brand new vehicle, you generally look towards used cars. Buyers have always had to be careful when buying used cars- you have to check the history, the mileage, if it was in any accidents, etc. However, if you are in the market for a used car today you need to add water damage to the top of the list.
Last year, Hurricane Sandy blew through the Northeast and damaged thousands of people’s homes, cars and lives. In fact, the Columbus Dispatch reports that about 250,500 insured cars in 15 states were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Half of those vehicles were in New York, but the rest were spread across 14 other states. The total number of vehicles damaged is even higher considering uninsured vehicles were not included in the count. While many would assume these cars simply get trashed or used for parts, they have to think again. These water damaged vehicles can end up on the market and eventually in your driveway.
Purchasing a water damaged car is not only something you want to avoid, but is something that can continually take money out of your pockets. What’s worse is that sometimes you won’t know a car has water damage just by looking at it. Take a look at the following tips to help you avoid buying a used car with water damage.
Check the Title
If a car has water damage and a company or dealer is trying to resell it, the title must say that it is a “salvage vehicle.” When Hurricane Sandy hit, thousands of cars felt the blow. Since it is up to the insurance companies to handle these water damaged vehicles- if they were insured- they hire companies that auction the vehicles off to dealers around the country. The only condition is that the title must show it is a salvage vehicle.
If the title says “salvage” you may want to dig deeper- or move on to a different car.
Look for Gaps in Reports
Checking the car title for “salvage” should be a fool-proof way to avoid buying a used car with water damage, but sometimes it’s not enough. To go the extra mile, look at the car reports like the ones you find on CarFax. If the car was in an accident it should be on the report, but water damage may not always be indicated. However, if the report has any gaps you will want to check them out and dig a little deeper. Ask questions and try to get answers on what happened during the gap. Also, if you see the car was recently purchased from an auto auction in the Northeast, you may want to reconsider your interest in the car.
When looking at reports, you also want to be weary of a vehicle that has multiple registrations in different states. Certain states do not require certain information to be recorded, so they may just be finding loopholes to hide the ugly parts of the vehicle’s history.
Look For Signs of Water Damage
Though this tip may seem completely obvious, water damage isn’t always obvious. You may assume a car like the one pictured to the right has no chance of ever being sold again. However, companies can make cosmetic changes to a vehicle to hide the fact that it ever looked like this. What they don’t spend the money on is the internal damages like ones made to the electrical system. You can look for the signs of possible water damage though. You’ll want to:
- Check below the seats, trunk, glove compartment and dashboard for rust, mud or dirt
- Make sure the color of the interior upholstery is the same throughout. If not, it can indicate replacements. If parts are stained or dirty, it can indicate water damage
- Make sure all electrical parts of the car work properly. Test the radio, windshield wipers, heat and air conditioning, and turn signals
- Make sure the wires beneath the dashboard are not brittle or cracking
- Check for smells of dampness or mildew
- Have a mechanic check the vehicle for an inspection before purchasing
Buying a car is exciting and it is a large investment. You wouldn’t want to spend any time and money on a car that will eventually fail. Before you put any money down on a used vehicle, make sure you do your homework and check everything you can to ensure your new car doesn’t have water damage.