Whether you live on the coast or inland, floods are always a threat. All it takes is a prolonged downpour and a few factors to come together for the perfect storm. Knowing how to assess your cars after a flood can be helpful.

Assessing Your Vehicle

If your car has flooded, then chances are you’re dealing with other flood-related issues as well. Before doing anything else, make sure your family is safe and you’ve taken necessary steps to prevent further damage to your property. Once you’ve done this, you can turn your focus towards your car. Here are some things to evaluate and monitor:

  • Call the insurance company. One of the first things you need to do is call your insurance company. If there was widespread flooding in your area, your agent is going to be slammed with activity. The sooner you can get your claim filed, the faster it will be resolved.
  • Check depth of water. Grab a ruler or tape measure and check the depth of the water in the vehicle. This will give you an idea of how serious the damage may be. It’s possible that the water never rose to a level to harm key systems and components.
  • Calculate time of submersion. Estimate about how long the vehicle was submerged in water. The shorter the time frame, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage the car. It’s also a good idea to note the type of water that flooded your car. Freshwater tends to cause less long-term damage.
  • Look at the weather. What sort of weather is approaching in the coming days? Hot temperatures could put the vehicle at risk of corroding, particularly if your car was flooded with saltwater.
  • Check the oil indicator. Pop the hood and start peeking around at the engine. Pay careful attention to the oil indicator. If it’s reading an amount that’s higher than normal, it’s likely that some water got into the oil. Don’t start your car – this could cause serious damage.
  • Check electrical systems. If the engine looks okay, your next step is to check all of the electrical components. This includes headlights, turn signals, stereo, power features, interior lights, and air conditioning. Make a note of anything that doesn’t seem to be functioning properly.
  • Dry out the interior. Once you’ve checked on all the main parts of the car, you can start drying out the interior. Use buckets and wet vacs to dispose of any standing water. Then open the doors and windows and use a combination of fans and heaters to dry out as much of the moisture as possible. Mold will grow quickly inside of the car if you don’t take swift action.

Totaling Out Your Vehicle

Every state has different laws and each insurance company operates on a set of specific guidelines, but a car is generally determined to be a total loss when:

  • The vehicle is so damaged that it can’t be repaired in a safe manner.
  • The vehicle costs more to repair than it’s actually worth.
  • And/or the amount of damage is too much (according to state and insurance regulations) to justify a repair.

Hopefully you have comprehensive insurance coverage for your vehicle. If so, you will simply have to pay the deductible and will be issued a check for the fair market value of the vehicle. If you don’t have comprehensive insurance coverage, you still have options

One option might be to part the car out. If there are a few good parts in the engine, you could make a few hundred dollars. At the very least, you can probably take the vehicle to a junkyard and make some cash for the scrap metal. 

Having your car damaged by a flood isn’t fun, but it also isn’t the end of the world. Take a deep breath, sort through your options, and try to be thankful for your health and safety.


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