Hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged cars returned to roadways across the country in 2017, according to CarFax. About 3,200 flood-damaged cars returned to New York City streets and about 9,000 across the state, the company says.

Flood damage is not always immediately apparent. “Your electrical system starts to short out, the mechanical system starts to break down, eventually your engine stops working, but even the most dangerous things, like your airbags or anti-lock brakes, are affected by flood water,” explains Chris Basso of CarFax.  

And damage that is visible can be cleaned up, so unsuspecting consumers could unknowingly place themselves behind the wheel of flood-damaged car.

“The unique thing about flood damage is that it can be easily cleaned up by con-men and consumers can be duped,” says Basso. “Just a little investment of time and money can make a waterlogged wreck look like almost a brand new car.”

Before purchasing a used car, buyers should order a vehicle history report. A free check for a history flood damage is available at

Consumers should not rely exclusively on car history reports because not all events are reflected. Additional steps should be taken, like asking that an independent mechanic inspect the car. Finally, be aware of tell-tale signs of flood damage, like a musty odor, corrosion in the engine, rust under the steering column, moisture or stains on the seatbelts and seats, moisture trapped in the exterior lights, and water or debris in the trunk or spare tire compartment.