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Are You Covered If Your Car Is Flooded?

Imagine watching helplessly as floodwaters flow down your street and swamp your car up to the roofline. If you have had the unfortunate luck to have your car flood you know just how devastating it can be. Structure and engine damage can take months to fix and in many cases the car will be totaled. It can be a time consuming and frustrating experience.

Flooding doesn’t just affect just the car owner; it can also affect car buyers. Flooded vehicles are often deemed worthless and less than honest rebuilders and resellers will often put them back into the marketplace. If you end up buying a car that has been flooded you are in for a world of expensive repairs and a shortened lifespan. Here is a quick overview of what to do if your car has been flooded and how to spot a previously flooded car.

Is Flood Damage Covered?

If you car full coverage on your vehicle don’t worry, you are covered. Comprehensive coverage provides protection from damage caused by weather events like hail, fire, flooding as well as theft and vandalism.

Unlike liability insurance, which is required by law in almost all states, comprehensive is an optional coverage. If your car has a loan against it, or you are leasing the financing company will require that you carry full coverage in addition to the state mandated liability. Unfortunately, if you are only carrying liability you are on your own when it comes to repairing your vehicle. In most cases of severe flooding the car will be a total loss.

It is important to remember that your insurer will only pay out the actual cash value of the vehicle when it was flooded. If you owe more on the vehicle than it was worth you will be on the hook for the balance.

Check your policy for rental car reimbursement, as you will need another car during the rebuilding process.

What Should I Do?

If your car has been flooded there are a number of things that you should do to minimize the damage. The first thing on your to-do list is to call your insurer and inform them that your car has been flooded. They can walk you through their process and advise you on how to proceed. They will schedule a time for an adjuster to come by and examine the vehicle.

The National Auto Dealers Association  (NADA) recommends the following steps:

  • Do not start the vehicle until a mechanic has inspected and cleaned the vehicle. Starting a flooded vehicle can cause severe damage to the engine. If you are unsure if the water has gotten into the engine check the oil indicator, it will show a high level if there is water in the engine.
  • Do what you can to dry the vehicle as soon as possible, the longer it is exposed to water the more damage will occur.
  • If possible record the highest level the water reached on the vehicle, this can help the auto technicians in the repair process.
  • If the car is being repaired look for a certified technician that can both evaluate and repair the vehicle.

In many cases of flooding the vehicle will be declared a total loss. If this is the case it is time to start shopping for a new car.

Spotting a Flood Damaged Car

Less than honest owners will often clean up their vehicles and try to resell them without mentioning the flood damage.  A flooded car that is declared a total loss by an insurance company will be issued a salvage title. These cars are often sold to rebuilders who fix them up and sell them. Unfortunately there are ways to wash a title and eventually a clean title may be issued to a flooded vehicle.

Buying a flood damaged car will usually end badly for the new owner. Flooding causes severe damage to every part of a car. Salt water will especially damage the frame and engine. Mildew and mold problems are common as well. It is advisable to always have a professional and trusted mechanic check out any car you are considering.  Here are a few tips for spotting a flood-damaged car.

  • Look for dirt, silt and water stains in the glove box, trunk and engine compartment.
  • Rust on metal parts such as screws often indicates flood damage.
  • Faded, discolored, or water stained door panels, seat belts or upholstery.
  • A moldy odor or the overwhelming smell of Lysol which is often used to hide mold and mildew damage.

Ask to see the title, if it says salvage or flooded on it, keep shopping.