By on September 8, 2017

2016 chevrolet spark

Ignore what some of the congenital liars in the autojourno game are saying: Most of the cars that were flooded out during recent weather events will not be “immediately crushed.” That would be utterly ridiculous. Some flood vehicles will wind up being comprehensively parted out to end users who might never need to know about the watery provenance of their secondhand parts. Does it really matter if the OEM aluminum wheels you buy off eBay were ever in a flood? What about that side marker light? You get the idea.

On the other hand, some cars will be processed, primped, and placed back in a sales channel with or without the mark of Cain on their titles. Which leads us to a question:


Would you buy a flood car? If so, what kind of discount would you expect?

Are there certain cars you’d never buy if you knew they had water damage? What kind of guarantees would you need? I can personally think of several situations in which I’d buy a car with a branded title. Hell, I just did exactly that last week — but that’s a story for another time. What about you? Are you interested in Noah’s Spark? What if this Gilgamesh-esque flood leads to… an epic deal?

[Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Can We Interest You in Noah’s Spark?...”


  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Discount = (asking price-$500)/(asking price)

    assumes $500 is what I could get for it from a pick-n-pull place

  • avatar
    matador

    I wouldn’t touch a flood car. I’ve bought two branded title vehicles, but both were for hail damage

  • avatar
    gespo04

    I *almost* bought a 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth with a salvage title and a broken windshield for $4000, but I got cold feet. So, less than that price I guess.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Sorry – no matter what it is – not worth the potential headaches down the road. Even if there are warranties/guaranties – it still is my time/frustration to deal with them.
    I’ll pass.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Mom and dad bought one in the late 80s from the flood in Chicago. It was a 1985 5th Avenue and they never had an issue with it. It was purchased through a body shop that specialized in salvage title vehicles. Dad has purchased several of his work Maxi-vans through that shop as well.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Maybe – and that’s a BIG MAYBE for older cars – but for a modern can with all the electronics/airbags etc. – no way.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I would only buy a flood car to use as a track car or for parts. Trying to salvage a modern vehicle with all of its electronic systems is a major loosing endeavor.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I couldn’t do a flood car. But I was very recently considering a branded car that had just been repaired. I got the VIN and found the auction listing for it showing the damage. It was no worse than my car had two years ago that was repaired – just happened that the salvage car is somewhat older and thus has a lower value.

    The thing that stopped me was my total ignorance in what it takes to title an out of state salvage car in VA. And the asking price was too high for me to try to figure it out.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Given the price is right, why not? Especially if it’s early ’00 Muscle/Sports, current 4X4/crew pickups, anything high “interest”.

    It’s like would you date a bipolar, schizophrenic chick? Yep if she’s Hot enough!

    At least the car is fixable.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the only “right price” for a flooded car is $0.

      • 0 avatar

        “the only “right price” for a flooded car is $0.”

        Just about everything has value. My grandfather made a living dealing in scrap paper and rags.

        • 0 avatar
          everybodyhatesscott

          My dad has bought 2 salvage title cars from the same guy. I’m not sure if either one were flood cars but they’re literally half the price of a comparable. If it’s your only car, I probably wouldn’t advise it but if you have extra money lying around and want to try something new without taking the depreciation hit of a new car, why not?

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I don’t have the room to have multiple cars. if I buy one, it’s going to be my primary transportation. a salvage/flood damaged car is absolutely worthless to me because it is completely untrustworthy.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          good for him. it’s 2017, not 1927.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            We’re fine with it and not gonna judge or emasculate anyone not able or not wanting to take on a salvage, flooded and or “project” car. It’s cool Essay.

            Me I gotta have at least an acre just for project cars/trucks, dogs to run amok and not have my neighbors right on top of us. Not negotiable.

            BTW my first car was a salvage ’79 (Fox) Mustang Ghia 5.0 I couldn’t otherwise afford in high school, 1985. I did most of the work myself (no experience), it ended up costing me less than half of “private seller” prices. No regrets, had an absolute blast doing it.

            It’s an option today if I suddenly (midlife crisis?) want something I can’t afford and or don’t want to pay “full pop” for.

          • 0 avatar

            Everything has some value, hence the term “salvage title”. FWIW, he closed his shop in 1965 and the scrap industry still exists, including paper and rags, though the rags are more likely to be sold as used clothing in the 3rd world than used as wipers and shop rags in factories.

            Municipal garbage pickup is on Thursdays in my neighborhood. On Wednesdays, the pickers come through. I admire initiative.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I might be interested in a flood car if first, the title disclosed that it was a salvage title due to flood damage. Second, it was fully restored, and third it was priced at no more than 50% of trade in value.
    Even with these conditions, it’s still a crap shoot long term because of the long term effects of water exposure to the car’s electronics.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    I don’t know why one would touch a flood damaged car. The chassis will rust, because all those carefully seam-sealed joins are only sealed from the side water ingress is expected, so it will actually _retain_ water coming from the other side. And the electrics an average car has nowadays? Fuhgeddaboutit.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Since about 75% of the money I’ve spent on unscheduled repairs has been for water-related issues (intrusion), I’m gonna have to say no. Water is about the only thing on a modern car that can be the make-or-break factor to leave you stranded. Don’t mess with electronics.

    I’d love it if more manufacturers would put the chassis wiring higher in the car rather than under the carpet. It seems like that would mitigate the effects of water’s best friend, that jerkoff named Gravity.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    No.

    there are thousands of other cars just like it, I’m not going to risk a potential nightmare of a money pit just to save a few bucks up front.

    pay now, or pay a lot more later.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Nope.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve already seen what minor water damage can do – hello leaking sunroof line in my Clubman (which could have been a non-issue if Mini had spent 2 cents on zip-tying the rubber connector between the sunroof and the metal line that ran behind the wheel). Instead I had headlights that flickered, or – in the case of the overhead light – randomly pop off and on while running.

    Or after a heavy rain, the left turn signal would go on by itself. And the battery would drain.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Lucas, Prince of Darkness: The Sequel

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Another example of fine German engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Ford, also, I’m afraid. My dear daughters 2005 Mustang has a BUNCH of TSB’s regarding water. There’s a reason. Turns out most of the weatherstripping around the car is foam or tape (only the finest Honduran tape, grain-matched for quality I’m sure). It all dried out and did the eco-friendly decomposition thing by about 2014, when a sudden turn during rain caused a flood down the right fender which wound up inside the “Smart Junction Box”, otherwise known as the chassis computer. I got it started, and drove it home with no dash lights, turn signals, wipers, gauges, defrost, headlights, etc. Imagine Christine, where everything turns on by itself, but the opposite.

      I wound up gutting the moldy carpet and pad, sealing all the holes with Ford sealant and 2009+ heat-shrink rubber parts (the foam was causing lemon-law issues and got upgraded). I got a new SJB from salvage over the phone as Ford quit making them, and spent two days replacing fuses and figuring out how to get the radio and windows and all to work with a used SJB from a donor car. The battery and alternator went soon after, although I can’t prove that was related.

      It’s fine now, but ugh, I’d almost rather sand rust than chase leaks. I can only imagine REALLY dunking one under water and trying to bring it back cheap enough to sell at a profit.

  • avatar
    Peter Voyd

    Never – unless the choice is flooded vehicle or walking.

    How about this one?

    2002 Acura NSX Targa, 6 Speed – 30,385 miles – Comptech Exhaust System – $58950

    “This NSX has never been in an accident but does have what would be considered a minor flood history event on the title. It was the result of severe Houston thunderstorm event. […] the previous owner by phone who candidly explained that the car had (only) fresh rainwater in and around the car and up to about the bottom of the dashboard.”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Back when I was younger, I used to buy used cars, fix them up a bit, and re-sell them for some extra cash. Most of the time I was fortunate and did not have any headaches. However, one time I purchased a 1978 Mercedes 450SEL. Car looked good, engine was strong as an ox, but its electronics were screwy. Trying to find out what was wrong with something, I pulled the carpeting around the firewall area and that’s when I found an accumulation of dried mud, and a tell-tale water line. I was able to fix most of the electrical issues, but not 100%. Was glad to get rid of it soon after.

    I would only consider a flood-damaged car after a thorough mechanical inspection, and at a substantial discount.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I’d consider a 1960s or older car if the damage wasn’t bad and the price was lower than a clean example. There just isn’t as much to go wrong, and the car is probably a project at that point anyways.

    A modern car would probably have to be about 1/3 the price of a clean title before I’d even start to think about it. Even if it was expertly repaired, there is always the nagging doubt of not being able to count on the car. I wouldn’t suffer that stress unless it was saving me a LOT of money

  • avatar
    NeilM

    A flood damaged car from Houston, Florida or pretty much anywhere in the South would be a mould nightmare. Just say no.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    MAN, JACK BARUTH IS REALLY PHONING IN HIS REQUIRED QUOTA OF WEEKLY ARTICLES/ESSAYS/EDITORIALS ON TTAC, LATELY!

    This is utter crap.

    Eventually, Jack’s articles will consist of 17 random words, a neanderthal-like grunt of a message, and maybe a wet fart.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Obviously, this has to do with Jack’s own website, which he’s building up with brother Bark.

      If you’re going to phone it in, Jack, particularly after writing past masterpieces regarding Porsche, Lincoln, Lexus, Cadillac, socio-socioeconomics of vehicle ownership/purchasing , etc., don’t stick around and tarnish your rep, and just move on now, and focus on your own blog.

      • 0 avatar

        I think Jack is missing an opportunity by not monetizing his site but the fact that he’s not going to monetize it undercuts your notion of him doing subpar work here to benefit RG.

        DW, you’re a very smart guy but I think you’d be happier devoting your skills and energy into building or making something instead of being a sidewalk superintendant of others’ work.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Cripes, it’s just a question of the day, why would you expect it to have the substance of an editorial?

  • avatar
    bking12762

    I pass on branded titles. I enjoy selling cars that have no excuses and I sell them that way. When you eventually sell that branded title vehicle you have to explain that brand away. I prefer to let that segment of the population that doesn’t mind dealing with headaches do so.

  • avatar
    brettc

    No… Why in the eff would anyone want to deal with a car that’s had any amount of water in it? I can see buying parts where water might not matter much, like a plastic bumper cap. But a whole flood car? How ’bout naw?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      It depends on the amount of water. My coworker had to leave his Accord outside during Hurricane Sandy – his GF’s car got the garage with the higher ground. Being that the driveway was sloped, the back end of the car was under water. Only part of the interior that got wet was the floor of the back seat. When the salt water receded the car did in fact start, but his insurance company totaled it. The car had a loan on it but now he was under water (sorry) financially. I suggested he buy the car back. Very little electrical in the rear to be damaged, so I told him I’d help remove the rear seat cushion, carpet, etc. and check the harness for the taillights and whatnot. The insurance company convinced him not to do so. Whoever bought that “flood” car got a great deal. My friend ended up with a few thousand dollar “sandwich” to eat.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My first car was a branded title flood damaged car. It was flood new on a dealers lot from a watermain failure. It was reconditioned by Linder’s in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is a highly respected operation when it comes to bringing totalled vehicles back to life.

    Never

    Again

    Wiring is even more complex and plentiful today than in an ‘ye old Ford Escort and after just 2 years wiring was starting to go brittle. The cable that controlled the temperature in the cabin seized up, and I had to make a ghetto repair to have it move from cold to lukewarm.

    This from a place that knows what they’re doing.

    Nope. Nope. Nope.

  • avatar
    JonBoy470

    I’d be game to check out flood cars at auction. See them in their pre-repair state to get a truer idea of how bad off they are.

    A carpet flood car cheap enough to buy outright for cash wouldn’t be that bad a bet. An older Civrolla or maybe a Spark like in the photo? Those are worth next to nothing to begin with, as soon as you drive off the lot.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    No. It will be literally impossible to resell for starters.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      No, not literally. You can sell it for $150 to a junkyard or a guy who wants parts, so it is not “literally impossible”. Can you walk up to a bum on the street and trade it for his cardboard box and a quarter he found in the drain? Then it isn’t impossible.

      Its “literally impossible” to get full value for it, assuming you disclose its condition/history, but it is not impossible to sell it for some amount due to a branded title, electrical issues, or leftovers from a meth lab in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And airbags, and the motor, and…!

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    If it was built before 1973, and the price reflected the flood damage. Sure, no problem.

  • avatar

    No. Id offer 10k for the nsx if it is otherwise perfect. There is going to be a. lot of time waiting on expensive parts from Japan and getting grit out of every moving part. This only works for a not dd toy and even then is borderline stupid

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Yep clearly not for everyone, and not every car is worth anyone’s time. Would you pass on a “fixer” house, priced at “value is in the land”, that’s otherwise exactly what you’re looking for? I’d jump on it with no hesitation, but I have friends in the “trades”, can get used/reclaimed fixtures/materials all day, and can do just about all the work myself. If you gotta go through The Home Depot for most things and or contractors, you’re dead in the water.

      When it comes to flood damaged cars (and houses), if you’re like most people, no special skills/knowledge in relation to the buy, yes stay away. Stick to the “Turnkey”.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        True on the house. I bought a mostly solid “fixer upper” that was primarily built in 1876. A labor of love, I looked forward to each and every project. Still, in the end I spent $130K on materials as 98% was done by me. Had I had to pay for a contractor to do all the work, I would be close to trading dollars. Only the insane appreciation of real estate would prevent it from being a loss.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Would those lifted mud-bogging bro-dozers doing all that flood relief count as flood damaged?

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Yes, for parts or for a vehicle to beat the phuck out of and then scrap. I’d buy a dirt cheap flooded SUV/truck that ran and moved. I promise you I would get my money’s worth out of it before it was a said and done. By that I mean I’d hammer on it and have fun until it gave up the ghost.

    Would I buy one to keep on the road? No, unless it could be proven that the water intrusion was minimal and little, if anything, was affected by it.

    Scenario 1
    1.Buy Honda Accord A with a bad transmission (not hard).

    2.Buy Honda Accord B that had water intrusion, use the trans to fix “A”. Assuming “B” wasn’t running or wasn’t completely submerged, this should be fine. If the trans fluid was milky, suggesting water made it inside, then no deal.

    3. Buy Honda Accord C with minor front end damage (no airbag deployed, non-branded title, say for example the car hit a deer and it just caused some dents but no structural damage), use parts from “B” to repair.

    4.Sell wheels (alloys?) off “B”, sell bumper(s), decklid, stripped doors (only metal and glass, no electronics or door panel), tail lamps, etc until all usable/undamaged parts are gone, then scrap it. No, I would not resell any electronic components, and yes, I would be honest with whoever buys the parts, disclosing that they came from a flood victim car. This assumes I find no mold or other damage on these parts before offering them for sale.

    Scenario 2

    1. Buy running/driving, but flooded Grand Cherokee/Durango/4Runner/4×4 pickup/similar.

    2. Beat the holy crap out of it off road, until its done for.

    3. Same as #4 above.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My father bought a 59 Buick Electra station wagon shortly after Hurricane Carla in 1961 (my middle brother totaled our 59 Plymouth Sport Suburban station wagon and we were waiting for our new 62 Chevy II to be delivered–we didn’t have a car at that time). That Buick had electrical and transmission problems. Also the car rusted and it had mold and mildew. You could see the water lines on the inside of the doors. My father had it repainted and it looked good but it had constant issues and was traded in on a new 64 Impala wagon 2 years latter. Even a 1959 car has issues after a flood and this particular car was in a refinery parking lot that was flooded during Hurricane Carla and most likely sat in water for a week. No I would not buy a flood damaged car regardless of price.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    It was a Buick Lesabre wagon not an Electra with power windows and a big block V-8. I do remember it was a fast car and smooth riding but it was constantly breaking down. Would have been a good demolition derby car–built like a tank.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Six months from now the QOTD will be how do we tell a cleverly repaired flood damaged car from a good used car.

    It seems most of the B and B won’t touch a water damaged car for free. Unfortunately there are an awful lot of potential used car buyers who have insufficient knowledge or insufficient suspicion to tell a clean used car from a repaired one. There are going to be a huge numbers of flood damaged cars, and I sincerely doubt that all of these will be branded salvage titles.
    I am afraid 2018 will see a lot of people getting very expensive educations in the due diligence of used car purchasing.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      There are to many people that are willing to buy it even if the seller discloses what happened, and the title is branded. They’re sold the line that it has passed inspection with the police, etc. And is repaired to pre-flood conditions. The reality is that the car will have constant electrical gremlins popping up.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Yes a lot of clean titles will be issued for those repaired flood damaged vehicles and they will be sent across the nation. Buyer beware if the deal is too good to be true it definitely will not be very good. Buyer beware.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I just lost my 2017 Pacifica to the Harvey flood waters. I wonder where it will end up? Here is a link to a vid I made, at the tow facility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riQ4rvYinuE

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      GR8 PL8! (Can that be transferred to the next vehicle, or do plates go with the car in Texas?)

      Was that near your home, or did you have to abandon it on one of the freeways (as your comment about the rear quarter-panel damage seems to indicate)?

      • 0 avatar
        JLGOLDEN

        I had to abandon the car on the freeway, about 11 miles from my house. It was a horrible situation, and I felt scared and stupid at the same time. The custom plate can be transferred to any other car, and although I did not replace my Pacifica with another Pacifica… I have a hunch that I will order for 2018 Pacifica and start over again. So if I’m rolling in another Pacifica soon… That particular plate will go on it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Sorry you had to abandon you Pacifica, but it is good that you got out.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    *Knowingly* buy a flood car? Nice cold glass of NOPE. I’m turning away from “used is value” towards new in part because of the increased incidence of flooding.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I bought a near-new 1983 Honda Accord hatchback with flood damage in ’84, for $7000. It was a river flood, no salt, and the dealer replaced the carpet, underlayment, and seats, replaced the brakes, and flushed the crankcase and auto transmission. It ran great for 4 years, then was hit while parked and totaled by the insurance company.

    I loved the fuel economy after driving a ’72 Monaco/360-2bb, but was fed up with 75 HP very quickly. The Accord was even slower 0-60 than the malaise Monaco. As others pointed out, that era had little in the way of electronics, so it was a safer bet than a drowned car today.


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