Get Gephardt: There are 33% more flooded cars in Utah, report shows

Unfortunately, the next flood could be a wave of water-logged cars headed to a used lot near you. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — First Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas, and now Michael appears headed toward Florida. News of flooding has certainly made landfall in the U.S. this year. Unfortunately, the next flood could be a wave of water-logged cars headed to a used lot near you.

It is illegal to sell flood-damaged vehicles in most states, including Utah — but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In fact, according to Carfax, it’s a growing problem thanks to last year's storms.

“The number for Utah did increase rather significantly,” said Carfax spokesperson Chris Basso. “Our data suggests there are now more than 3,000 previously flooded cars in use in Utah, about 1,000 more than last year. Definitely a nod, in part, to the impact of Harvey and Irma on the market there.”

With the storms this year and vehicles from last year still resurfacing, Carfax says it is once again offering a free flood check for consumers at www.carfax.com/flood.

After a car has been under water, it's going to have all kinds of problems that are likely to leave its driver stranded on the side of the road. That's why most states require a title be branded that a car has been flooded so consumers know.

But Get Gephardt has reported before on the dubious hijinks some used car lots and individual sellers can employ to wash those titles clean.

So, how can you be sure that used car hasn't been in a flood? Consumer Reports Auto Editor Jon Linkov says use your eyes and your nose.

“The first thing you want to do is come over to the front of the car,” he said. “Inhale and see if there’s any kind of moldy or musty smell. If you have that you definitely want to walk away from the car.”

Next, Linkov says pop up the trim panel on the side of the door and look for a dirty carpet, sediment or rust. The same should be done in the door pockets.

“If there’s any kind of sediment in there or dirt or stones, that’s what happened when the water came up and into the car, and as it drained away it settled and hid in there," Linkov said.

Ironically, one of the best places to check for flood damage that could ruin an engine is in the trunk of the vehicle.

"Look where a spare tire would be kept,” Linkov said. “If it’s got sound deadening, smell if it’s musty or moldy smelling. See if there’s any rust on exposed screws, on the panels, or even on the tools like the jack or the jack stand."

They are good tips, but Linkov says it's no substitute for a having a mechanic you trust conduct a thorough inspection of a car before you buy.

Although vehicle history reports can be helpful, Get Gephardt has reported before that those reports are no guarantee a car is problem-free. Those reports encompass information from government agencies and mechanics. When information isn’t reported to a history-report-company, or is misreported, the report will, obviously, be wrong.

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