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How to avoid buying a car with water damage

When searching for a car to purchase, many shoppers consider buying a used car. This can often be a more affordable choice, but it’s important to understand the history and condition of the car prior to signing on the dotted line.

Ask the dealership or seller to provide you with the vehicle history report of the car you’re interested in purchasing. The report will give you details including the number of previous owners, total losses, and more. You can also visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau and use their tool to determine if a car has been reported as a salvage vehicle by an insurance company.

If the original owner of a car didn’t report damage to their insurance company, it may not be documented. Unfortunately, this can happen when the owner of a car is in a hurry to sell it after it retains water damage as the result of a hurricane or flood.

Signs a car has water damage

Here are some signs of potential water damage that may go unrecorded on the car’s history report.

1. Mold

Does the car smell moldy? The smell of mold can be difficult to mask. If you smell mold, there’s a chance the car has mold in it or once did, so keep searching for other signs of damage.

2. Rust

There are many reasons a car might have rust on it, but if it has rust in combination with other signs of water damage, the car might have been flooded in the past.

3. Cloudy headlights

Take a close look at the headlights. If they appear cloudy or you can see water lines on any part of the headlight, be weary.

4. Debris

If you see debris in the nooks and crannies of the car, you may wonder how it got there. Floods can wash away leaves and dirt that would otherwise be settled on the ground. Once the flood waters are drained, the debris might find a resting place in the small crevices of the car that are difficult for the former owner or seller to clean.

5. Missing parts

Is the car missing any of its screws or plugs? It might be difficult for you to know as a buyer, but if something doesn’t look right, there’s a chance the part went missing during cleanup after a flood.

If you suspect the car you’re considering buying has been damaged by a flood, you can cross it off your list and move on. Oftentimes, dealerships have multiple cars that are the same make, model and year. Consider purchasing a similar car that won’t need ongoing repair from the effects of flood damage.

When you’re ready to purchase a car, Nationwide offers both auto loans and auto insurance.

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