totaled cars, Flood vehicles, “Flood” salvage title, VIN check

How to Spot Flood Damaged Cars


If you’re looking for a low-cost car at a salvage car auction, keep an eye out for vehicles that have received flood damage. Often, they have a flawless look and are sold at a pretty low price, but they may have a variety of issues.

Cars severely damaged by flood get a “Flood” salvage title and arrive at auction yards where thousands of people buy them, unaware of the issues they may face. Water damage can be tricky, as car parts slowly rust away, electric issues manifest slowly, and the negative impact can appear years later. 

Flood vehicles can be difficult to spot. That’s why we always recommend running a car VIN number lookup and getting a ClearVIN VIN Check Report before bidding on any vehicle. As an alternative option, you can perform a free license plate lookup and get all the needed details concerning the vehicle’s background.

How to spot a flood car

Though flood vehicles appear to be in good physical condition, here are a few tips that can help you distinguish them during the inspection

  • The most obvious things to look for are the traces of rust on the exterior and mold spots throughout the interior. These signs indicate the presence of standing water, and more problems are waiting ahead. 
  • Look for flood level water lines on the car’s body. They can give you an understanding of how deep the vehicle was submerged. Once you spot it, open the doors and see if the car’s interior was damaged at the same level too. Also, you can press down on the seats and see if any water comes out.
  • Take a look under the hood. Inspect the vehicle’s fluid levels and check the condition of the oil. If the oil looks fresh and clean, the car was most likely not driven in water. Pull out the air filter and check for pooling water. 

Denoting a flood car by VIN

If you don’t have much experience inspecting salvage cars, then running a vehicle VIN check is the easiest way to look into its history. 

The VIN check was created by the National Insurance Crime Bureau to help buyers understand the history of vehicles. A VIN report can tell you a lot about a car, including the reason why it was totaled.

Stay safe with ClearVIN

If you don’t have the chance to inspect a salvage car before making a purchase, get the most information you can by running a VIN check online. You can find a sample report at For more information, email us at [email protected] and stay safe.

  1. Thanks for sharing these useful tips to help spot a flood damage vehicles. Consumers should be very cautious when purchasing a used car that might have had damage done as a result of flooding; as these cars not only will have an odor of mildew but can & probably will also have electrical damage as well!

    Another reason to always run a free vin check or vehicle history report from a few different companies prior to purchase.


    Chris M. Kuhn
    Lemon Checks

  2. Great post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I am impressed!
    Extremely helpful information specifically the last section 🙂 I
    handle such information much. I used to be looking for this particular
    info for a long time. Thanks and best of luck.

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