By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Are you in the market for a new set of wheels? The spring and summer flooding in the Midwest didn’t just damage lives and homes, it also ruined thousands of cars. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds that could mean trouble for used-car buyers here.

They’ve been drenched, soaked and submerged, and now, some warn flooded cars are being put up for sale.

“The earliest cars damaged this season are starting to hit the market,” says Larry Gamache of Carfax. According to Gamache, “They’ll move them as far away from the flood damage area as possible to areas where people aren’t suspecting that a car could be flood damaged.”

Reports of water-soaked vehicles soared 600 percent after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Many vehicles that were still drivable were cleaned up and hit the market in other states three to six months later.

“Flood damaged cars are very unsafe,” says Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. She advises that consumers run away, not walk, if they suspect a car’s been soaked. She says, “The brakes may not work, it may stall in traffic. Today’s cars have all these electronics, and once they’re submerged, those electronic components are hopelessly compromised.”

Jim Donovan reports…

There are plenty of flood damage warning signs to look out for, including watching for water or condensation in the head lights or tail-lights, checking for musty smells, and or believe it or not, being sure that you don’t find water in the spare-tire well in the trunk.

For a few dollars, you can check on a vehicle’s history on sites like or While these car history websites do post information on flood vehicles, you need to realize that there is sometimes a delay. If a car has flood damage and has been totaled by an insurance company or salvaged, that information often will appear on the car title, but it depends on the state.

Regardless, when purchasing any used car, be sure to have a mechanic you’ve chosen inspect the car first. It’s the best way to avoid getting ripped off.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS3

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