Car Shopping? Busy hurricane season could bring more flood-damaged cars to Tucson

Buying flooded cars

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - While Southern Arizona may not feel the impact of a busy hurricane season, drivers shopping for a used car could feel it behind the wheel, on the road or in their bank account.

Annual CARFAX data shows that 446,836 flood-damaged cars are on the roads in 2020 and that number is expected to rise in the wake of Hurricanes Laura and Sally.

Just over 3,400 waterlogged cars are in Arizona, according to the data. About 600 of those cars are in the Tuscon market.

“Once you take it home, it’s too late," said Emilie Voss, Public Relations Director for CARFAX. "A lot of these vehicles are actually rotting from the inside-out.”

This nationwide surge in flood-damaged cars can put unsuspecting buyers at risk, especially those in Southern Arizona who aren’t thinking about floods or water damage in the dry and hot climate.

“While it may look fine on the outside, it could have the internal problems that could surprise you and can cost you a lot of money and put your safety in jeopardy,” said Voss.

Cars reported as flood damaged by entities such as Departments of Motor Vehicles or insurance companies are in use in every state, according to CARFAX.

Here are 7 tell-tale signs of flooding:

1. A musty odor in the interior, which sellers sometimes try to cover with a strong air-freshener

2. Upholstery or carpeting that may be loose, new, stained or doesn’t seem to match the rest of the interior

3. Damp carpets

4. Rust around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches

5. Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under the seats

6. Brittle wires under the dashboard

7. Fog or moisture beads in the interior lights, exterior lights or instrument panel

“There’s close to half a million vehicles on the road that have some sort of flood-damaged history and it’s really important for people to look for those warning signs. Turn the ignition on, check for rust, do all these things so you’re not surprised down the road," said Voss. "Have a mechanic check the warning signs, take it for a test drive. Those three in combination are your best bet to not have a surprise down the road.”

CARFAX offers a free Flood Check® tool, a national map that shows where flood cars have washed up, and a flood damage checklist at carfax.com/flood.

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