Don't get hosed buying a flood damaged car

September 11, 2017

In the wake of the recent flooding across the south during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many vehicles were damaged by high rain waters.

Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana reminds consumers in the market for a preowned vehicle to watch out for vehicles hitting the used car market that may have been submerged.

There is no foolproof way to detect vehicle flood damage but there are steps that car shoppers can take to detect water damage and protect themselves. Experts say potential buyers should inspect the interior, trunk and engine compartment for rust, musty odors and other signs of significant water damage.  

BBB also suggests asking a reputable mechanic to look for signs of water damage in the used vehicle you thinking of purchasing. Mechanics may detect things like water levels in the engine well and rusting wires. They can also look inside your ventilation system and see if there's any debris – a tell-tale signs of flooded vehicles.

Better Business Bureau urges new and used car buyers to be cautious of unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicles' history.

BBB recommends the following tips to help consumers determine if a car is flood-damaged:

  • Start With Trust® Check out the reliability of the dealer at
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped "salvage."
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate and look for signs of water.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • If the car's history seems suspicious, ask the dealer or individual directly if the car has been damaged by floodwater.
  • Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save you money in the long run if major problems are discovered.


Bottom line -what looks like a good deal and the future could be a poor and costly investment.  Remember “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Look for the Seal” and Start with Trust®. BBB Serving Acadiana is a private non-profit organization. BBB strives for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.

Please contact Better Business Bureau at or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. Consumers can also sign up for our “Scoop” BBB eNewsletter by visiting and clicking on the “Programs & Services” tab.

BBB Serving Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.