General Buying Information

Car Water Damage: What Is It?


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Many people believe any vehicle damaged by water or flood is garbage and should never be purchased, however, you can buy a car that is water damaged with confidence if you carefully research the vehicle and the rebuilder.

Here's how:

  1. A vehicle damaged by salt water (either by flooding or storm) is always a bad choice. Such cars are never going to be worth rebuilding, and are very limited in value. The electronics are damaged or will fail very soon. Even the body panels have to be carefully cleaned and examined before re-using, as salt is extremely corrosive.
  2. By Federal law, all cars damaged by hurricanes have to be so noted during the insurance auction when the car is sold. Always ask the rebuilder for the original damage report, how the vehicle was damaged and the scope of damage. Find out where the vehicle originated in the sale. Try to find out where the vehicle was registered. Also, ask for a list of parts replaced and the methods used to rebuild the vehicle.
  3. A vehicle that's suffered fresh water damage is a different story altogether. Insurance companies often total vehicles without ever researching the damage because they don't want to pay for the labor of having the car dismantled when they're going to write it off and pay the owner. If the rebuilder is reputable and does a thorough job, these cars can be an excellent buy.

It's important to check the references of the builder. Get pictures of the car and a damage report, a written description of what was wrong with the vehicle, how it was repaired and ask if the vehicle was purchased through insurance auction. See if the rebuilder offers a warranty. In some cases, the factory warranty may still be in effect on newer vehicles.

There are very reputable rebuilders and there are those who only do what's necessary to pass a vehicle off, so check for references. If your state inspects vehicles for rebuild titles, you're at a tremendous advantage.

If there's no inspection, be wary of the vehicle. Follow these guidelines and you'll purchase a vehicle you'll be satisfied with.

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