How to spot flooded cars before you buy

HOUSTON – Thousands of vehicles across the Houston area were swamped in last week's flood. Many of them will end up in the junkyard but others will be rebuilt, and show up on the used car market. 

If you're in the marked for one, you could end up with a refurbished vehicle that was damaged in the floods.

"I think more vehicles that have been flooded will go back to market than you or I would ever want to know," said Dana Karni, a Houston consumer rights attorney.

She says flood damage to a vehicle is supposed to be disclosed but that doesn't always happen, making it difficult to know what you're buying. That means you have to ask the right questions.

"I would dare say there will be dealers out there who will say if it's taken in water, it doesn't necessarily qualify as a flooded vehicle by some standards," Karni said.

It's imperative to do your own legwork or better yet, hire a mechanic to do an inspection for you. Before buying a used car, close all the windows, let the car sit for a few minutes and smell for mildew and mold. Be wary of strong fragrances.

Pat down the seats to check on damp spots.

Check the trunk. Water tends to gather around the spare tire.

Look for signs of corrosion on the metal parts under the seats. 

"I think a mechanic would be able to do a really good job of looking into the tailpipe to see if there's caked mud. Look into the engine and examine underneath the carpet to see if there's any rust," Karni said.

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