As we know, often flooded cars are re-sold later on with no outward or documentary evidence (salvage title, etc.) of being flooded.
Here are a few quick tips you can use to determine whether a car has been a victim of a flood:
- Discoloration of seat belts. Extend the belt from its retractor and check to see whether there is white mold or mildew on the belt.
- Pull back the carpets (not just the floor mat) and check for accumulated sand/silt under the carpet.
- Rust underneath the car. Check for unusual rust under the car, particularly for cars sold in Western or Southern states where rust is not generally a problem. Ditto if a CARFAX or other documentation doesn't note that the car has ever lived in a rusty area.
- Rust on screws and metal hardware inside the center console area where water doesn't reach. Check things like corroded airbag connections and such.
- Missing rubber bung plugs in the trunk and underneath the vehicle. This can be a sign that they were removed to facilitate draining of the vehicle if it was flooded. If more than one or two plugs are missing, this should be considered a very suspect issue.
- Water stains or fading on the seats, door panels, and other "soft" areas inside the car and inside the trunk.
- Moldy/musty smell inside the vehicle or an intense/recent "disinfectant" smell from cleaning/de-molding, and/or used to mask bad smell due to water damage.
Try checking the car's history using the VINCheck service: http://wwwnicb.org/how-we-help/vincheck
Check CARFAX's flood damage check: http://www.carfax.com/press/resources/flooded-cars