It’s hurricane season, and no state is more familiar with hurricanes than Florida. Here, we tend to roll our eyes at the panic-inducing newsflashes from The Weather Channel, but with the prevalence of king tides, flooding, and stronger and stronger hurricanes, buying a used car can be a real challenge. Carfax is easily fooled, and since our state doesn’t have very stringent titling practices, many sellers come here to pass off flood damaged cars and salvage title cars as clean vehicles.

According to the Sun Sentinel, scammers prey on our somewhat lax automobile regulations. This brief guide can help you spot flood damage in a car. There are few more insidious types of damage to a modern car than water damage.

Spotting flood damage starts with obvious turn-offs when you inspect a car. Does the car smell of mildew or mold? Worse yet, is the natural smell of the car covered by strong air fresheners?  If so, it likely has water damage. This will be your big tip-off. Check specific areas of the car, starting with:

The Carpeting

It’s extremely difficult to clean up after flooding. Once the carpet soaks up all that oily, muddy water, getting rid of that water is a challenge. With record-breaking heat, mold thrives, and you can see mold spots on all but the darkest carpeting. It will show up as orange-brown smudges around the doors, under the seats, and in the lowest parts of the carpets where the fabric stayed wet the longest.

Also, if the carpeting looks brand new, but the car has over 80,000 miles on it, there’s a sign that the carpet has been replaced. Since it’s so hard to get rid of the mold after a flood, many used car flippers will replace the carpet rather than show off the obvious signs of flooding.

Look for Mud Lines

Signs of mud and oil will show in unexpected places, like the glove box and the trunk. There may be a clear line where the car sat with water in it, just like when a tide comes in and leaves a mark on a dock or the sand. This is a telltale sign of water damage that many people won’t think to clean up.

Check the Filters

Most modern cars have an easily accessible air filter in the engine. If it got wet, then water got into the engine. Any signs of water on the filter means that filter got into the engine, so even if the car seems ok, it’s most likely a time bomb for major failure. A line, mold, or tangible damp on the filter will give away the water damage.

If you can’t access the engine air filter, the cabin air filter is usually easier to access. Most cars mount them behind the glove box. If there’s water in that filter, water got that high inside the car and there’s no doubt that the car is a bad buy.

Check for Rust and New Paint

A clean Carfax report can’t hide obvious accident damage. New paint will hide damage from a distance, but if you look closely or even run your hand along the car, you should be able to feel where rust hides under the paint. Also, bubbles, runs and drips in the paint, and warping in the paint are signs that it may have been applied over body damage and poor body work.

ALWAYS Check the VIN

Checking the VIN is your number one step. To combat sales of bad vehicles in the state, the DMV offers a quick VIN check at this link.

Be careful buying a used vehicle. Once you find one that passes your tests, it’s simple to get the car registered in Florida. Contact us at Auto Tags of Florida for more information, today!