First Things First -- Check Your Insurance
"Insured drivers whose cars have been flooded may be covered for more than they think," according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). So check that policy and see whether it's worth it for you to file an insurance claim. Ask your insurance agent about your coverage amounts, deductible and other options that could help you recover costs. If your auto insurance only includes liability coverage, then you likely wouldn't be covered for events such as Superstorm Sandy. The magic word is "comprehensive" when you're looking for compensation for this sort of thing.
Document the Damage
Remember that great digital camera you got for Christmas? Well, bust it out and snap some shots of the destruction wreaked on your vehicle. Pictures of the damage at its peek awfulness could come in handy -- especially if the insurance company is deluged (sorry, bad pun) with claims. Companies such as Progressive Insurance also recommend you "measure the depth of water that submerged your car" and "how long it was submerged for." This will help determine how salvageable some of the damaged parts might be.
Upon Returning to Your Car
If you understand the ins-and-outs of your car, there are a few things you can do to determine the extent of damage. According to Jack Bulko, owner/operator of AutoAid in Van Nuys, Calif., "I would check the fluids...if there's a creamy residue in the oil or the transmission fluid, then there's an indication that water has mixed."
Should I Start My Car?
Some experts think that starting your car immediately poses no risk. Others, such as insurance company State Farm, recommend that you avoid starting or driving your car until after an inspection has been done. This is to avoid doing additional damage to your water-logged vehicle.
What If I Do Start It?
Some cars may drive fine at first, but could develop problems later on. It really depends on the extent of water damage. "If it does start [and] the electronics have been affected, then you would see that displayed on the dashboard -- multiple lights the person has not experienced before," according to Bulko. "If it doesn't start, you know there are issues."
Air It Out to Prevent Further Damage
After a car has been flooded, you should open the doors, pull out the floor mats and park your car in the sun if you can. This will help your car's interior dry out faster and prevent mildew. If your car simply stews in the floodwater without being dried out, various electrical components and wiring could be put at risk for permanent damage. Especially when it comes to salt-water damage, which can cause erosion faster than fresh water. A good body shop near you should be able to assess the damage and tell you what can be fixed -- and what can't.
My Car Was Submerged -- Now What?
According to Bulko, "Once a vehicle -- especially a later model vehicle -- is submerged in water, it's kind of useless. It's a loss because of all the electronics on board. It's like dropping a telephone in the bathtub or in a swimming pool...the circuitry is gone." If the water does not get to the dashboard level, then you were probably spared the most serious diagnosis -- total loss.
How Can I Avoid Such Pains Next Time?
Having seen the devastation that can be wrought on the coastlines and at sea level, sitting around and waiting to see what happens is not advisable. "Moving it [the car] to higher ground would be the simplest solution to avoid any kind of exposure to water...putting it up on blocks or parking it somewhere on a hillside."
Does a Flood Vehicle Have Resale Value?
Insurance companies pump these cars onto the market everyday after rebuilding and restoring them. In fact, more than 50% of water-damaged cars get resold according to CARFAX. You can always check CARFAX's flood damage site to determine the kind of damage a flood vehicle has sustained, so you can "make sure your next ride isn't a waterlogged wreck." Simple enter the vehicle in question's VIN number to get all the gory details. If you do choose to roll the dice, Bulko says "I'd steer clear of any car that's been submerged to the level of say, the dashboard."