AAA: Be Wary of Flood-Damaged Cars Hitting The Market

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FRAMINGHAM – The devastation caused by Hurricane Ian may have an additional consequence that reaches all the way into New England – the presence of flooded cars, said AA Northeast, which has an office in Framingham.

With a shortage of new and used cars, flooded cars from hurricane Ian may be making their way into the used car market. It has been reported by CarFax (vehicle history reports) that nearly 50 percent of flood damaged totaled vehicles return to the market as used cars, said the organization.

            Here are some tips from AAA Northeast on how to spot a flood-damaged vehicle:

  • Insurance companies often declare flood-damaged vehicles as total losses, and those cars are then sold to salvage companies. However, rather than being dismantled for parts, some of these vehicles are purchased by individuals who restore them to some degree of working order. AAA warns car buyers that water-damaged vehicles can be transported anywhere in for resale, and often continue to appear in the marketplace for many months following major floods.
  • Before purchasing a used vehicle, acquire a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. The report may reveal if the car has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title.

  • To determine if a used vehicle has been water damaged, look for these signs:
    • Damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.
    • Carpet or upholstery that has been replaced or recently shampooed. Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt, rust or water stains.
    • Mud and dirt on the underside of the dashboard. This area is hard to clean.
    • Rust on the underside of the vehicle. Corrosion is uncommon in newer vehicles and those that are owned and operated in warmer climates.
    • Rust, mud, dirt or discoloration in body seams and small out-of-the-way crevices on the doors, under the hood and inside the trunk.
    • Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.
    • Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
    • Electrical components, such as lighting, the heater/AC fan, window motors and more that are not functioning properly.
    • Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. To locate a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you, visit

Finally, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. The continued shortage of used car inventory coupled with increased buyer demand will continue to push up prices (already 30 percent higher than last year). History has shown us that less than honest dealers, wholesalers and even private party sellers will be offering these previously flooded cars to unsuspecting buyers.


AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 70 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 6 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.


email: call or text at 508-315-7176

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