Get Gephardt: Cars flooded by Ian may soon be flooding Utah roads

Oct 11, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: Oct 13, 2022, 12:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Some of the earliest and most powerful images showing the impact of Hurricane Ian showed flooded streets and submerged cars. As flood waters recede, mechanics will tell you that those cars should probably make their way to scrap yards.

Not all of them, warns Emilie Voss, spokesperson for CarFax.

“A majority of these vehicles often end up back on the road and back in the used car market,” she said.

CarFax tracks damaged vehicles to compile its main product: vehicle history reports. Get Gephardt asked CarFax to break down its data to show how many flooded cars end up in Utah.

It’s a lot.“Utah is 27th in the nation when it comes to the number of flood damage cars,” Voss said. “Salt Lake City is actually 21st in the nation when we look at all the cities nationwide.”

Currently, there are an estimated 4,600 flooded cars that have been resold and are currently on the road in Utah, CarFax’s data shows.

That may surprise you since Utah is a high desert where we don’t experience a lot of flooding compared to states like Texas and Florida. Interestingly, Voss said it is because Utah doesn’t get a lot of floods that Utahns can be a target.

“We have seen a trend over the last several years of conmen moving these cars from states where flooding is top of mind for a car shopper — Texas, Florida — to states where it’s not something that might be top of mind for a shopper — places like Utah.”

Oregon and Washington State also tend to see an influx of flooded cars in their used car markets, Voss said.

While flood damage can wreak havoc on a car’s engine and electrical parts, ironically, the best place to check for flood damage may not be under the hood. It may be in the trunk.

Engines are easier for a seller to make “look” clean than other parts of a car, Voss said. Look for rust around in the spare tire well or on the car jack. Pull away some of the loose upholstery and see if there is sediment behind it. Also, look for water beads in places where it should not be, like inside a headlight can.

Voss said it’s always a good idea when buying used to pull a vehicle history report and see what kind of damage has been reported. CarFax offers a free service where consumers can specifically check for flood damage.

Voss said it’s always a good idea to have a mechanic kick the tires. They will see things that most of us can’t.

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Get Gephardt: Cars flooded by Ian may soon be flooding Utah roads