How to Avoid Purchasing a Flood-Damaged Vehicle

Posted 09.03.2013

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A vehicle damaged by flooding isn’t one you want to buy. But damage from a flood is often internal and hard to spot if you’re not a mechanic. Here are a few tips to help sniff out and avoid purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle.

Why Flood-Damaged Vehicles Are a Bad Deal
While it’s true that most vehicles are made to take a beating from the elements, a flood will cause irreparable damage to electrical systems and internal parts. In fact, body shops don’t even recommend trying to start a flood-damaged vehicle, as a spark in the ignition could start a fire. The only good spot for a flood-damaged vehicle, as far as insurers and mechanics are concerned, is a salvage yard. According the Alberta Vehicle Motor Vehicle Industry Council, “If there is evidence the vehicle was submerged in water at or above the bottom of the dash, the vehicle will be considered non-repairable and it cannot be licensed in the province”. In addition, flooding can cause a permanent mould problem in the vehicle.

A flood vehicle is defined as a vehicle that has been submerged up to the bottom of the dash to a level that affects the major electrical components, and/or a vehicle that has been contaminated with toxic fluid that makes the vehicle unsafe to use. The Vehicle Inspection Regulation of Alberta requires that all flood vehicles be designated as non-repairable, a designation also shared by every jurisdiction in Canada. This designation can’t be removed even if all major electrical components and wiring harnesses are replaced on the vehicle.

Ask for an Up-to-Date Report and Inspection
To be on the safe side, purchase your own CarFax or CarProof report online and ask for a new provincial safety certification that has been completed in the past two months.

Be Especially Careful With Private Sale Vehicles
While its true that you can often find a deal on Kijiji, the general rule is that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. In this scenario you definitely want to ask for the vehicle to be looked over by a qualified technician specifically for flood damage. A civil lawsuit is the only way you can recover money if the vehicle you purchased through a private sale turns out to be flood-damaged, so the extra precaution is worth it.

See the Government of Alberta’s advisory sheet for Flood Vehicles for more on precautions to take to avoid purchasing a vehicle with flood damage.

Signs That You’re Dealing With a Flood Vehicle

According to a recent Vehicle Inspection Program bulletin issued by the Government of Alberta, you should look for the following items to see if you’re dealing with a flood vehicle:

  • Strong musty / mildew odour from the interior or trunk
  • Contaminated cabin filter or cabin filter housing
  • Abnormal surface rust under dash or under seats on bare metal brackets and frames (note that some amount of light surface rust is common on exposed bare metal surfaces)
  • A high water line evident in an area under the dash
  • Mud, sludge, or silt under carpets, spare tire well, or behind the cargo and trunk area panels.
  • Mud, sludge, or silt under the hood in areas shielded by a hose, wiring harness, or engine cover (note that this indicator may be normal for vehicles operated on unimproved dirt and gravel roads)

If you need leasing or financing for new vehicles, contact Patron West to see what we can do for you. We can find you financing for your next company vehicle, whether you’re a single owner/operator or a business looking to purchase a fleet.

If you are a dealer, find out more about your responsibilities relating to flood-damaged vehicles.

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