Hurricane Ida Marks the Return of Flood Cars to the Used Market

The purchasing of flood cars is an oft-debated topic within the car buying space. However, the answer to “should I buy a flood car?” is always a resounding “NO.” That said, the aftermath of Hurricane Ida will mark the return of a plethora of flood-damaged vehicles to the marketplace. Thankfully, there is a silver lining here.

Is a flood car worth buying?

A blue Toyota Corolla wades through a flooded street in New Zealand
Flooded cars often have that damp smell to them | Fiona Goodall via Getty Images

As I said above, don’t buy a flood car. Under no circumstances. No, it’s not a good deal. And no, it’s not going to be cheap to fix. Avoid them like the plague we have all spent the last year trying to avoid. Fortunately, odds are flood-damaged cars won’t even make it to the market. Storms like Hurricane Ida wreak havoc on cars and infrastructure alike, and many will have been simply totaled out.

Of course, there’s always the unscrupulous Hamburglar-lookin’ fellow that fished his car out of the Gulf wanting to sell it on the low. Usually, cars like this will be from private parties, and not dealers. That said, it’s best to avoid dealers in flood-stricken areas for the same reason. You can’t see a lot of water damage, and the dealer might not either.

Hurricane Ida will flood the used market with cars

A satellite image of Hurricane Dorian as it approaches the Florida coast
Storms like Hurricane Ida are becoming more common | NOAA via Getty Images

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By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Hurricane Ida. The tropical storm has devastated large swaths of the Gulf Coast, and storm season isn’t even over yet. Evidently, that means lots of cars got left on the street or in flooded garages. Hurricane Ida will lead directly to more flood cars being on the market. Moreover, we can’t just hope these cars will stay in affected areas like Louisiana, either.

Savvy parties looking to sell flood-damaged cars will often move them out of state, and they may appear without a branded title, per Consumer Reports. These sellers will also know that people in flooded areas won’t be buying cars with the financial hardships of flooding in tow. No, they’ll be counting on buyers from dry states out west to pick up these cars unaware of their condition.

How to spot flood-damaged cars

Cars navigate their way through a flooded street in New Jersey
Flood cars can cost you thousands in damages | Kena Betancur via Getty Images

Legally, damage from a flood has to be disclosed on the title. However, that isn’t always the case. Thankfully, you’ll smell a flood car before you see it. The ocean smells, and so do things that have been in it. Faulty electronics are a good sign of flood damage, and so is a messed-up interior. Basically, use common sense. If a car doesn’t feel right, then don’t buy it, flood or not.

Unfortunately, this won’t be helping the used market recover. There’s not a whole lot of used cars around, and a load of new flood cars on the market will mean supply will become even more scarce. As always, the best thing consumers can do is wait for the market to calm down.

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