Car Buying Tip – How to Spot Flood Damaged Used Cars


I recently bought a used pickup truck from a local dealer in Utah. I like to think that I’m very savvy when it comes to buying and selling used cars or trucks. I’ve bought a lot of vehicles in my lifetime. And I’m only in my mid 30’s. I’ve also worked a lot in the automotive retail industry, in parts, sales, finance, and even Internet advertising. So it comes as no surprise that friends often come to me for advice on car buying. And sometimes they even ask me to review their car deal to see if it’s a fair deal. So in my recent experience shopping for a truck and helping a friend purchase a used SUV, I came across some obviously flood damaged vehicles. And yes, even in UT. So I want to share a bit here with this online community some keys or tips to avoid purchasing a flood damaged car.

You might be surprised to hear that flood damaged cars often times have clear titles. It can take a bit of time for title branding to catch up after a car was claimed as a total loss. And often times the flood damage is never reported to an insurance company. The car just gets cleaned up as best as possible and then re-sold or traded in. Recall for a moment Hurricane Sandy that ravaged the east coast just this past year. Keep that in the back of your mind as I take you through my inspection of a used truck I was considering purchasing.

It was a shiny black 2011 Toyota Tundra with all of the factory upgrades and aftermarket parts and accessories I was looking for. It was a 5.7L TRD Crewmax model that I wanted bad. And it was priced below wholesale. The truck had an aftermarket custom headache rack that looked like it was one of the premium ones from Spyder Industries, but I couldn’t quite tell. It also had a black color matched bull bar mounted and some LED offroad lights included as well. This truck was hot. And it was a great deal. In fact, it was such a good deal that there were four other guys looking the vehicle over at the same time I was. The first thing I looked at was the title and the vehicle history report. Many use Carfax, but any will do. I was looking for previous damage and the report showed none. I noticed it had been purchased at a New York auto auction by the dealer selling it. I didn’t think too much about this at first.

So as I began my inspection I looked for signs of something abnormal or out of place. I look to make sure the spare tire and jack are inside the vehicle. I inspect the spare tire to see if it’s ever been used. As I crawled underneath the vehicle I noticed quite a bit of rust under there. I noted it, and continued on my inspection. The biggest clue to the puzzle came as I looked behind the rear seat and found the sign I hoped not to find. The compartment that held the spare tire jack was filled with about 2 inches of sand! And the jack was completely rusted tight to the point it was inoperable. This truck had to have been sitting in four to five feet of water for over a week. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase the truck. But someone else did right as I left the dealership. What do you think? Should I have told those other guys what I found? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

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