How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Vehicle

According to a 2017 report by CARFAX, the national used-car market was inundated by nearly a half-million flood-damaged vehicles after hurricanes Harvey and Irma pummeled the southeast a few years ago. 

Unfortunately, this shocking CARFAX exposé ranked Florida as having the fourth-highest number of flood-damaged vehicles on the market. Even more concerning, CARFAX noted that the Miami metro area recorded the third-highest number of flood-damaged used cars for sale.  

With the 2021 hurricane and flood season ramping up, that means there are even more opportunities for South Florida used car buyers to encounter flood-damaged cars. (Prepare for this year’s South Florida hurricane season with our handy hurricane/flood-prevention checklist.)  

These flood-damaged used cars for sale near Miami pose all sorts of risks, including shorted-out electrical systems, engine and transmission failure, damage to exhaust, brake/ABS systems, and dangerous mold. You may also get bilked into paying thousands of dollars more than the waterlogged car is actually worth.

8 Red Flags: Flood-Damaged Car

Experts from Consumer Reports and The Weather Channel say that you can protect yourself from unwittingly buying a flood-damaged used car — if you know what you’re looking for. Here are eight red flags that signal possible water damage: 

1. Musty smell

Close doors and windows for a few minutes then get in the car and give the interior the “sniff test.” Does the car smell musty or damp? Does it seem like there’s too much air freshener being used? 

2. Damp carpets

Is the carpeting loose or damp? Does it appear like it’s been recently replaced? Check the carpeting in the trunk for similar signs. If you can, lift up the carpeting to expose the padding underneath which can stay damp for years. 

3. Stained or mismatched upholstery

Are there any stains on the upholstery? Lift up on the upholstery fabric. Is it loose? Does the upholstery color match the rest of the interior? Do the seats look as if they’ve been replaced? 

4. Rust

Thoroughly examine the vehicle’s interior and exterior for signs of rust. Places to look include around the doors, underneath the dash, and on or underneath the pedals. Check the inside of the hood and the trunk. Pay special attention to the springs that hold up the trunk and hood. Look at the inside of the wheel wells, too. 

5. Mud

Look underneath the seats and inside the glove compartment and check for any dried mud or silt an unscrupulous seller may have missed while “reconditioning” the vehicle. 

6. Wiring

Flood damage will make wiring brittle. Check underneath the dash to see if the wiring is flexible or stiff. 

7. Headlights & Taillights

Examine the headlights and taillights for signs of fogging or moisture beads. You may even find tiny holes drilled into the plastic lenses to drain water. You may also see this same moisture problem happening to the instrument panel. 

8. Oil & Air Filter

Water and oil don’t mix. Check the engine oil to see if it looks murky or cloudy. Examine the paper air filter looking for water stains.

Extra Steps to Protect Yourself from Buying a Flood-Damaged Used Car 

Check the used car’s VIN.  

Several organizations, including CARFAX, Experian, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, will let you check the used car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for any issues. Steer clear of salvage/flood titles or cars coming from recently flooded parts of the country.  

Buy from a reputable used car dealer near you.  

While car dealers are required by law to disclose water damage, there are some dishonest dealers out there who skirt the law by claiming they were not aware of any damage. When looking for the best good used cars for sale near Ft. Lauderdale, be wary of cars that are sold “as is.” 

Trust Honda’s Certified Pre-Owned Assurance of Quality 

The best way to avoid purchasing a flood-damaged used car near Miami is to buy a Certified Pre-Owned Honda from one of our 16 reputable South Florida Honda Dealers’ new and used car dealerships. 

Here’s why buying a Certified Pre-Owned Honda is your ultimate assurance of used-car quality: 

  • Each Honda CPO used car undergoes a thorough 182-point inspection by factory-trained technicians. 
  • Honda CPO vehicles come with a 7-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty* backed by Honda. 
  • Get a FREE CARFAX Vehicle History Report™ with every Honda CPO vehicle. 
  • Honda Care® Certified Additional Coverage can give you added peace of mind with extended warranty protection* at a price you can afford. 

Take advantage of special Honda financing and lease offers by requesting a quote on new Hondas for sale in Miami. Click here to find a South Florida Honda dealership near you. 


*This is intended to provide an overview of coverage and benefits. Actual coverages, limitations, and exclusions may vary. See your Service Contract and CCMC Membership Guidelines and/or Emergency Roadside Assistance Guidelines for complete details. 

*Based on vehicle in-service date.