Interview: What to Do If Your Car Has Been Flood Damaged

Hurricane Ian was one of the most impactful storms in U.S. history and left massive amounts of damage in its wake. Some of the damage included flooded and submerged cars that have left owners wondering what the next steps are when it comes to filing insurance claims, inspecting replacement cars for flood damage, and finding a new car that doesn’t have flood damage.

I recently had a chance to speak with Hanif Said, director of hub operations, and Chris Hayes, director of communications, at Vroom to discuss these points.

In light of the recent hurricane, how can Florida residents and other car buyers detect whether or not a car was flood damaged?

A car sits in floodwater after Hurricane Ian.
A car sits in floodwater after Hurricane Ian. | Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

One of the best ways to detect if a car is flood damaged is to bring it to a qualified mechanic to check it out. Although there are some tell-tale signs, like watermarks or defective electronics, that the untrained eye can detect, a high-level inspection could be a better direction to go.

Hanif Said explains, “Flood damage can be hard to detect, but a trained and experienced auto repair technician can certainly help. A few high-level tips include inspecting the carpets to see if they have been waterlogged or have caked-on mud. Those are some visual cues.”

“This inspection extends to the exterior of the car,” Said explained. For example, the headlights could have a visible water line, and there could be unpainted screws with potential rust as well. “A trained and experienced technician can put a customer’s mind at ease,” Said says.

For the drivers that were affected by the hurricane, how can they go about filing an insurance claim?

A flooded car following Hurricane Ian
A flooded car following Hurricane Ian. | Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

If your car received flood damage, the first thing you should do is call your insurance agent. “Call your insurance agent as soon as possible, take photos of the damage, and file a claim,” Said explained.

State Farm also suggests starting to dry out the car as soon as possible, as salt water is more damaging than fresh water. You can use towels to absorb the water on the seats and carpet and a wet/dry vacuum to collect any standing water. A fan or dehumidifier can help with the drying process as well.

Your insurance company and a qualified mechanic can inspect the car to assess the rest of the damage.

If buyers are looking for another car to replace their flood-damaged vehicle, what can they do to avoid buying another flood-damaged car?

Cars submerged on a city street after Hurricane Ian.
Clouds are reflected on a flooded street with submerged cars following Hurricane Ian. | BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

While it can be difficult to navigate the used car market, retailers like Vroom go to great lengths to ensure buyers can find what they are looking for.

“We know how important vehicles are for everyday needs, so we have a variety of different options and are able to deliver pretty quickly,” Said explained. “All of our vehicles go through rigorous reconditioning when it comes to flood inspections and cosmetic and mechanical safety inspections. We have many high-quality vehicles listed on our site.”

“As cars are delivered, they’re not just delivered and dropped off in someone’s driveway,” Hayes added. “Those drivers are set to drop off those cars, walk through them with the customers to make sure they understand how to use those cars and make sure they are what the customer expected to get. This is not just about making a transaction; it’s making sure that customers are comfortable knowing what they’re getting, especially after something like a hurricane.”

The logo for Vroom Inc. is displayed on a laptop computer.
The logo for Vroom Inc. is displayed on a laptop computer. | Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

That means that retailers like Vroom won’t accept cars that aren’t fit to be sold. “Sometimes when we purchase cars online, if that car shows up at our reconditioning centers and it’s not the car that should be sold, then we’re not going to put it up on our website. We’re not looking to ‘turn and burn’ cars,” Hayes explained.

Although the recent hurricane has left many drivers stranded without a car, there are steps that can be taken to get back them back on the road. Filing insurance claims and getting their current cars inspected are the first steps, but finding another car is just as important. Fortunately, retailers like Vroom are there to help with the process.

RELATED: Why Is It Dangerous to Drive Through Flood Waters?