Now that hurricanes Harvey and Irma have come and gone and most everyone affected can focus on rebuilding and recovering, that could also potentially mean buying a new car to replace the one that got destroyed. Problem is: how do you know if the new car you’re thinking about hasn’t also been hurricane damaged?


You should especially be on the lookout for scammers, who will take those hurricane cars, clean them up and them flip them to unsuspecting customers. If you’re shopping for a used car, be sure to be extra cautious. Be on high alert if you are shopping around on a used car lot or are in talks with a private seller.

AAA released some tips on how to spot flood- or hurricane-damaged cars:

  • Check the vehicle’s history and acquire a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. The report may reveal if the car has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title.
  • Be alert to damp or musty odors.
  • Check for carpet or upholstery that has been replaced or recently shampooed. Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
  • Look for dirt building up in unusual areas, especially the underside of the dashboard. This area is hard to clean.
  • Inspect for rust under the vehicle. Corrosion is uncommon in new vehicles and those that are owned and operated in warmer climate areas.
  • Look for rust, mud, dirt or discoloration in body seams and small out-of-the-way crevices on the doors, under the hood and inside the trunk.
  • Ensure electrical components, such as lighting, the heater/AC fan, window motors, and more are all functioning properly.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection of the used vehicle by a trusted mechanic.

It’s a shitty thing to do—pass off a damaged car as one in good condition—but it happens. It’s up to you do your due diligence.


Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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