Watch Out For Flood-Damaged Cars

BBB Warns of Hurricane-Impacted Vehicles

Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers about the possibility of flood-damaged cars from Texas, Florida and other hurricane-stricken states in the Southeast making their way to our region. Though title information and car history should always be researched when buying a car, it’s going to be especially important in the months to come.

“Car shoppers should always be fully informed before making a purchase,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Past experience tells us some of the cars affected by recent hurricane and flooding activity will be on the market after being restored.”

Such vehicles should come with a salvage title attached to them. Salvage title is a form of vehicle title branding which designates that the vehicle has been damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it. These vehicles are then sold to salvage yards or auto restoration companies.

While vehicles with salvage titles can be purchased cheaply, there are risks and problems involved, including the fact such cars have greatly reduced Kelley Blue Book values when it comes to reselling them. Insurers also sometimes balk at covering vehicles with salvage titles.

To determine if a used car is flood-damaged, auto shoppers should:

  • Obtain a vehicle history report through a service such as CARFAX, or by visiting Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a state affected by recent flooding and if the title has been stamped “salvage” or tagged as “flood-damaged” in any state.
  • Keep in mind that vehicle history reports aren’t always foolproof. So before buying any used car, it’s a good idea to get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic.
  • Check the dashboard. Examine all gauges to make sure they are accurate and functional. Look for indications that the dashboard may have been removed.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage. Look for open drainage holes in the bottom of the vehicle.
  • Look for discolored, faded or mildewed upholstery and carpeting. Recently shampooed carpets may be cause for concern. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Examine the car for standing water, mud or grit in the spare tire wheel well or around the engine compartment under the hood.

Remember to always check out the reliability of car dealers by visiting

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.