Flood-damaged Road Vehicles

If your vehicle has been damaged by flooding, it must not be used again under any circumstances because it is no longer safe.

What you should know if your road vehicle has been damaged by flooding

Do not try to start a flood-damaged vehicle

For safety reasons, you must never try to start a road vehicle that has been immersed in water or any other liquid as a result of flooding, an accident, heavy rains, a sewer system overflow or any other incident or natural disaster, because it may no longer function properly. To move the vehicle, you must have it towed or transported.  

Flood-damaged vehicles are not safe

Given all the electronic components in a vehicle, flooding causes damage that can lead to such components malfunctioning, which constitutes a risk to road safety. If a flood-damaged vehicle is put back into operation, it may not function properly and the vehicle’s occupants may develop health problems caused by the growth of mould and bacteria in the vehicle’s absorbent materials (fabric, foam, etc.). 

You must not put a flood-damaged vehicle back into operation

Flood-damaged road vehicles—including motorcycles and recreational vehicles (such as motor homes and camping trailers)—are prohibited by law from being put back into operation. This prohibition serves to ensure that unsafe vehicles do not end up on the road network. 

A flood-damaged vehicle is “irreparable”

Insurers are obligated to declare flood-damaged road vehicles “irreparable”. An irreparable vehicle can never be put back into operation and only some of its parts can be used again.

This prohibition from being put back into operation applies to all flood-damaged road vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles (such as motor homes and camping trailers). The only vehicles that are exempt from this prohibition are tool vehicles, farm tractors, snowblowers, and trailers and semi-trailers other than those that have been designed, in whole or in part, to serve as a dwelling or office.

Criteria for declaring a flood-damaged vehicle “irreparable” 

A flood-damaged vehicle is declared “irreparable” when at least one of the following criteria is met:

  • the vehicle was flooded to the junction of the engine wall and the floor of the passenger compartment or higher
  • the vehicle was flooded to such an extent that one of the major components of its electrical system may have been affected (with certain exceptions)
  • the vehicle was flooded and presents a health risk, in particular due to the presence of mould or bacteria 
  • the vehicle was flooded and declared a “total loss” by the insurer 

A flood-damaged vehicle that meets any of the above criteria is “irreparable”, even if the vehicle is not covered by an insurance contract. It therefore must not be put back into operation.

Major components of a vehicle’s electrical system

The major components of a vehicle’s electrical system are: 

  • the fuse panel or breaker panel
  • the electrical wiring with unsealed connections inside the passenger compartment
  • the electronic component: 
    • of the supplemental restraint system (airbag system)
    • that controls an element of the drivetrain system 
    • of the self-diagnostic system
    • of the passenger compartment’s heating, air conditioning or ventilation system 
    • of the defogging or defrosting system
    • of the braking, acceleration or steering system or of any other system affecting the handling of the vehicle, its stability or safety


An exception may apply if all of the following conditions are met: 

  • the vehicle does not come from outside Québec
  • the vehicle was not flooded by salt water 
  • only major components of the vehicle’s electrical system located outside the passenger compartment were damaged 
  • the damage to the vehicle is covered by an insurance contract or the owner of the vehicle is a person exempt from the obligation to hold an insurance contract   
  • the repairs made to the vehicle eliminated any risk related to the flooding and, to that end:
    • any major components that were damaged were replaced by new OEM components and the insurer implemented control mechanisms to ensure that this was the case 
    • the vehicle was repaired by a person whose expertise and knowledge were deemed sufficient by the insurer for the repairs to be carried out according to industry standards 

A flood-damaged vehicle from outside Québec cannot be rebuilt

A flood-damaged vehicle from another province cannot be brought into Québec for the purpose of being rebuilt, regardless of:

  • its origin
  • the status that appears on its registration certificate or title

Certain parts of a flood-damaged vehicle can be recycled 

Most parts of a flood-damaged vehicle can be recycled, except for the major components of its electrical system and any parts that could pose a health risk, such as those made in whole or in part of absorbent material (fabric, foam, etc.), because they could harbour bacteria or mould. 

What you should know before acquiring a road vehicle

Be careful, some flood-damaged vehicles may end up on the market

Although flood-damaged vehicles are usually declared “irreparable” and dismantled for certain parts to be recycled, some flood-damaged vehicles may slip through the cracks and end up on the market.

It is important to note that a flood-damaged vehicle that has not been declared "irreparable" at the time of the purchase may be declared "irreparable" when its status is updated. Furthermore, a flood-damaged or severly damaged vehicle is no longed covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

What to Check Before Buying a Vehicle

Have the vehicle inspected by a professional.

Ask the seller for written confirmation on the purchase contract that the vehicle has not been damaged in a flood or other disaster.

Check for signs of flood damage:

  • foul odours, musty or humid smell
  • rusty metal parts inside the vehicle
  • traces of mud inside the vents or under the floor mats
  • carpeting that is discoloured, damaged or of the wrong colour

For a small fee, check the vehicle's complete history on websites such as carproof.com, carfax.com, and autocheck.com. Exercise caution, however, as these websites are not infallible.

Make sure that all controls and accessories work properly.

Last update: July 14, 2023