Tips, Tricks & Trends

Heavy Storms Could Mean Finding Cheap Cars You Should Avoid

It’s hurricane season here in the southeast part of the United States, but even with our impending storms, that doesn’t mean the rest of the country hasn’t been experiencing some intense weather. Of course, with everything else going on this year, storms seem to be another day at the office, but storms mean a lot of things. For some people, it means damaged homes, businesses, and property, but that also means flooded roads and driveways. If you want to look on the bright side of things, floods usually mean a ton of cars with branded titles will be hitting the auction block or going up for sale from insurance companies.

Even major water damage can hide

If you find yourself casually browsing online listing and car auction websites, you’ve probably come across cars that have salvaged titles due to flood damage. Every year hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles are lost to floodwaters caused by even moderate storms, and they have to go somewhere. Sometimes flood cars don’t look that bad on the outside, and it can appear that there is nothing more than some rust, but even after a full inspection, you might not know precisely what you are getting.

Water coming from car exhaust
Water flows from the exhaust of a car | KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP

Branded titles are usually bad

Unless you are dealing with a very rare production car like a Lotus Elise, where having a branded title is more common than not, there are a lot of reasons to avoid a vehicle with a branded title. For one thing, you cannot just purchase and register a car that has a salvage title, and that’s usually what you will get if you are buying a car that has extensive water damage. For a salvage title, you will have to go through the process of repairing any damage and then have the vehicle inspected in order to receive a rebuilt title and be allowed to drive the car on the roads.

Car in salt water
Car in salt water | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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What a flood title can mean for value

If you are looking to purchase a rare or valuable car, but you don’t have the money or desire to pay full price, a flood might just be what you are looking for. You can buy a flooded car for a significant price decrease, sometimes at a discount worth well over half of the average value of the vehicle. This is because the car will likely need excessive repairs, and the car’s value is affected by the titling. Cars with rebuilt titles are worth less than their clean-title counterparts, and even if you rebuilt the car completely, the history for the car’s VIN would never be removed.

RX-7 Rescued from flood waters | Facebook

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Even if you’re just looking for a good deal, chances are the flooded vehicle you are looking for will cost you in the end. Water damage can severely damage the car’s mechanical components, including the engine and transmissions. For some people who are mechanically inclined, that might not sound like a bad idea for a project car, but water can also compromise the car’s wiring and electrical systems. You could be paying money for what turns out to be a rusted shell of a vehicle that needs almost everything replaced, usually including the interior as well.

Cars that have been totaled due to flooding and water damage seem like a good deal, and you know what they say — if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Some YouTube channels have shown the stress of trying to rebuild cars that have been destroyed by water or even fire, and the stories all have a lot in common. Mostly, you can see that things are almost always worse once you start trying to fix things, and your chances of finding more and more problems along the way are too high for comfort.