Love Your Car! Why the Wet Floorboards?

by Driving Guide | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

As my daddy always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If you have recently gotten a steal of a deal on a new set of wheels, it could be that an unscrupulous seller has slipped you a flood-damaged car.

If a car has been flooded, it is likely to have a host of electrical and mechanical problems going forward. Most flood vehicles don’t drive, and some won’t even start. If you have fallen victim to someone rotten enough to sell you a car in this condition, there are protections in place, but you’ll have to act quickly. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself with a faulty vehicle that is sure to smell great in warmer months.

What to Expect from a Flood-Damaged Car

When you buy a flood-damaged vehicle, you might likely deal with at least one of the following issues:

Poor Resale Value – Nobody wants to purchase a car that’s been through a flood. Being more honest than the guy that saw you coming, you probably won’t sell the car for anything more than a huge loss.

Costly Repairs – If deep enough, floodwaters cause corrosion, electrical damage and engine issues. Repairs to address any of these problems will be expensive.

Poor Brake Reliability – There is a high percentage chance that a vehicle that has survived a flood will have sustained brake system damage. Thin brake lines corrode quickly when exposed to water and it’s common for the brakes to fail entirely, making them a danger to drive.

A thorough pre-purchase inspection can save you a lot of heartache.

Move Fast for Lemon Law Protection

If you live in one of the following states, you may have an easier time getting out of this car deal than those in the other 44.

If you live in one of these states, contact your state Attorney General’s office immediately to make sure the Lemon Law protects you. The Lemon Law essentially rules that a mandatory warranty protects buyers of used vehicles. If an issue occurs during that warranty period, it is the seller who is responsible for covering any loss or damages. If you don’t live in one of these states, you might still be under legal protection. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) protects buyers of vehicles like these with a Federal version of the Lemon Law. This law is harder to adjudicate. The Federal Lemon Law only applies when warranty coverage is denied by a dealer who implied the presence of warranty at the time of the sale.

There is some help that you can receive after buying a flood-damaged car, but your best bet is to not wind up mistakenly owning one in the first place. Steer clear of past flood zones when car shopping and perform a very thorough visual inspection before purchase. Look carefully under the hood, the body and both the interior and exterior of the car for any signs of flooding. You should be able to pick out the good from the bad with a quick exam and a test drive or, safer still, bring along your mechanic to help make the call.