Shopping for a used car? Here are some tips to avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle

FTC offers advice for potential car buyers in the wake of Ian and Nicole

A truck is driven through a flooded street after Hurricane Nicole came ashore on November10, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Nicole came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane before hitting Florida’s east coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle) (Getty Images)

Following hurricanes Ian and Nicole, the Federal Trade Commission is warning potential buyers of how to steer clear of a flood-damaged car.

According to the FTC, after a hurricane or flood, storm-damaged cars are sometimes cleaned up and taken out of state for sale, and it might be difficult to tell that a vehicle has damage until you inspect it closely.

Here are some tips from the FTC if you are looking to buy a used car in the wake of the storms that battered Florida and other areas:

  • Check for signs and smells of flood damage. Is there mud or sand under the seats or dashboard? Is there rust around the doors? Is the carpet loose, stained or mismatched? Do you smell mold or decay or an odor of strong cleaning products in the car or trunk?
  • Check for a history of flood damage. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NCIB) free database will show if a car was flood-damaged, stolen but not recovered, or otherwise declared as salvaged — but only if the car was insured when it was damaged.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Start at to get free information about a vehicle’s title, most recent odometer reading and condition. For a fee, you can get other reports with additional information, like accident and repair history. The FTC doesn’t endorse any specific services. Learn more at
  • Get help from an independent mechanic. A mechanic can inspect the car for water damage that can slowly destroy mechanical and electrical systems and cause rust and corrosion.
  • Report fraud. If you suspect a dealer is knowingly selling a storm-damaged car or a salvaged vehicle as a good-condition used car, contact the NICB. Also, tell the FTC at and tell your state attorney general.