What Things to Do with Flood Damaged Car


What Things to Do with Flood Damaged Car

What things to do with flood damaged car? Floods bring widespread devastation, damaging properties, possessions, and vehicles. Has your car suffered water damage? Immediate action can prevent further harm. Flooding is a common natural disaster, impacting every U.S. state, often leading to costly repairs or total vehicle loss for those without adequate insurance. As an auto transport company, we come across many such situations where we transport inoperable and flood-affected vehicles. Learn what to do to mitigate flood-related car damage.


Key Highlights

  • Act fast to minimize flood damage to your car: Avoid starting the engine, remove standing water, and dry the interior thoroughly.
  • Beware of flood-damaged cars when buying used: Signs include musty odor, mismatched upholstery, and rust.
  • Flood damage repairs can be expensive: Consider the severity of damage and your budget before deciding to repair or sell the car.


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What steps to take if my car gets caught in a Flood?

First and foremost, prioritize avoiding flooded areas. If you encounter water on the road, it’s essential to turn around. The depth can be deceiving, and driving into floodwater is a leading cause of flood-related fatalities, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flash floods, known for their rapid onset and destructive force, pose a significant risk. They can occur within minutes of heavy rainfall with minimal warning. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to flash floods due to runoff from buildings, roads, driveways, and parking lots. Storm drains and sewers can become overwhelmed or blocked, leading to road flooding. Even as little as 6 inches of water can result in a loss of vehicle control, and deeper water is even more perilous. Tires can act as flotation devices in shallow water, making it crucial to exercise caution. Just 2 feet of water can float a 3,000-pound car (for reference, a 2021 Honda Civic sedan weighs less than 3,000 pounds). If your vehicle becomes trapped in a flood, here are some guidelines provided by the San Antonio Fire Department:

  • If your car becomes submerged in floodwater, it’s crucial to stay calm and prioritize safety. First, leave your car immediately and seek higher ground. If the car is swept into the water and submerged, try to remain calm and wait for it to fill with water. Once it’s full, you’ll be able to open a door, but remember to hold your breath and swim to the surface. When caught in fast-moving floodwater outside of a vehicle, point your feet downstream and aim to go over obstacles, not under them. If you’re stranded on an object above the floodwater, like a building or tree, stay in place and await rescue without entering the floodwater. Follow the directions of the rescue team once help arrives.
  • Additionally, avoid starting your car if it’s been partially submerged, as doing so can cause serious damage. Starting the vehicle may move water through the engine, rendering it unusable. Instead, have it towed or shipped by a professional auto transporter. To gauge the extent of damage, take note of the water line on your car; minimal damage may occur if the water didn’t rise above the doors, but if it submerged past the dashboard, it could be considered totaled by your insurance company.
  • After a flood incident, promptly remove any standing water and excess moisture to prevent corrosion and mold. Use a wet vac for standing water, soak up moisture on seats and floors with towels, employ fans or dehumidifiers for drying, and, if possible, take floor mats, seats, and cushions outside to dry. Inspect your oil, gas, and other fluids, replacing them if water contamination is detected. Contact a mechanic for further inspection and avoid starting your car if needed. In some cases, where the vehicle is severely damaged and becomes inoperable, professional towing service or inoperable vehicle shipping service may be necessary. These services can safely transport your inoperable vehicle to a repair facility or a destination of your choice.
  • Check the entire interior, especially electronic components and accessories susceptible to moisture damage. Test lights, stereo, windows, turn signals, locks, and mechanical parts like brakes and steering. If anything appears amiss or functions improperly, seek professional repairs. To find a qualified inspector, ask for recommendations from neighbors, friends, or family, or conduct online research, considering reviews and credentials to make an informed choice.


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How should I handle my vehicle damage caused by a Flood?

When a vehicle is exposed to floods, it can experience a range of issues, including exterior color fading or rusting, interior mold growth, mud accumulation, water contamination of electrical parts, a musty odor, and engine deterioration. Proper handling of these issues is crucial to prevent worsening problems and ensure safety for you and your passengers.

  • Do Not Attempt to Start the Car: Starting a flooded car may cause further engine damage.
  • Remove Standing Water: Utilize a wet/dry vacuum to eliminate standing water, and use towels to absorb moisture from seats and cushions.
  • Assist Drying: If available, use dehumidifiers and fans to aid in the drying process.

Buying a Used Car? Beware of a Flood Damaged Car!

  • Be cautious of flood-damaged vehicles when buying for a used car. According to Carfax, over 452,000 flood-damaged cars were on the road in the U.S. in 2023.
  • Carfax offers a free Flood Check tool to help identify vehicles with a history of flood damage.
  • Here are some warning signs to watch out for when inspecting a used car:
    • Musty odor in the interior, which may be masked by air fresheners.
    • Loose or stained upholstery or carpeting that appears mismatched.
    • Damp carpets or floor mats.
    • Rust around doors, pedals, hood, trunk latches, or under the dashboard.
    • Mud or silt under the seats or in the glove compartment.
    • Brittle wires under the dashboard.
    • Fogging or moisture beads in the exterior lights, interior lights, or instrument panel.

State with the most flood-damaged cars on the road

StateNumber of flood-damaged cars (2022)
South Carolina13,000
North Carolina13,000
New Jersey10,000

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Repairing a Flood-Damaged Car: Your Options

When addressing a flood-damaged vehicle, consider the nature and extent of the damage to determine your course of action. Cosmetic issues tend to be straightforward and cost-effective to fix, while damage affecting electrical components or the engine can be more complex and expensive. The decision to repair largely depends on the severity of the damage and your willingness to invest in repairs.

For minor damage, consulting a mechanic for repairs is an option. Review your insurance policy to assess coverage for repair expenses. In cases without insurance coverage, substantial damage can result in repair costs ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, potentially leading to a choice of selling the damaged vehicle for parts and buying a new or used car. If you opt for this route and plan to sell your car to a salvage yard, consider these tips:

  • Due to the damage, the resale value is likely to be significantly lower than your initial purchase price.
  • Ensure you possess the vehicle’s title, as it’s required for the sale to the salvage company; some may also request additional documentation like your driver’s license.
  • Some companies may offer higher compensation if you dismantle the car yourself, but caution is advised unless you have experience with automotive disassembly.
  • If advised not to drive the car after inspection, heed the warning and arrange for a tow or car transporter to deliver your car to the salvage yard.
  • Before handing over the vehicle, remove all personal items and any add-ons or accessories you wish to retain, such as GPS devices, stereo systems, or license plates.

Is FEMA coverage available for flood damaged car?

While FEMA has occasionally provided assistance to car owners facing flood damage in the form of low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program, it’s essential not to rely solely on FEMA for help in such cases. The availability of assistance is not guaranteed and may be restricted to specific counties affected by severe storms and flooding.

Applying for an SBA loan or seeking ONA assistance for issues like flash floods, widespread across the country, is often unlikely. Additionally, it’s important to note that SBA loans require repayment, and ONA aid may come in limited amounts.

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In conclusion, flood damage to a car can be a stressful experience. By following the steps outlined above, you can take control of the situation and minimize further damage. Remember to prioritize safety first, then focus on drying out your car and assessing the extent of the damage. For minor issues, repairs may be an option. However, for severe flood damage, selling your car for parts or purchasing a new car may be necessary. When considering repairs, be sure to factor in your insurance coverage and the overall cost before making a decision. Finally, explore all financial assistance options available and don’t rely solely on FEMA aid. With knowledge and preparation, you can navigate the challenges of flood-damaged car ownership.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a flooded car last?

With a thorough inspection and proper repairs by a professional, a flooded car can endure for many years. Neglected, it may only last a few months or weeks. While restoration may require considerable effort, a submerged vehicle can be returned to a like-new condition.

Should I rely on FEMA for help with flood-related car damage?

FEMA assistance for car damage due to flooding is not guaranteed and may have limitations. It’s advisable to explore other options for repairs and insurance claims.

Can I sell my flooded car to a salvage yard?

Yes, you can sell a damaged car to a salvage yard, but remember that the selling price is likely to be significantly lower than the original value.

Is it possible to fix a car that has been fully submerged underwater?

Yes, it is possible to repair a fully submerged car with extensive repairs and maintenance, although it may require replacing many components.

Can a flooded Porsche 911 be repaired, or is it a total loss?

Whether a flooded Porsche 911 can be repaired depends on the extent of the damage. Minor flooding may be repairable, but severe flooding can result in significant electrical and mechanical issues that might render the vehicle a total loss. A professional evaluation is crucial to determine the best course of action.



Bilal Ahmed is a dedicated auto transport researcher, blogger, and digital marketing expert with over a decade of experience. Holding a degree from MIT, Bilal passionately shares insights and knowledge with the world. His journey in blogging began as a means to connect with like-minded enthusiasts. With an honest and relatable writing style, Bilal swiftly garnered a devoted following. Renowned for his candid discussions on challenging subjects, he aspires to empower others in finding their voice through his platform.
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