Utah car buyers warned to be aware of flood-damaged vehicles

Hurricane Irma causes flooding as it batters Florida on September 10, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY – After a heavy year for hurricanes and tropical storms, Utah residents are being warned by the Utah State Tax Commission to be cautious when purchasing used vehicles.

The National Highway Safety Administration estimated that nearly one million company vehicles were damaged from flooding this year.

Some of those vehicles may end up on the market.

When vehicles are damaged in floods, they can be considered “totaled.” A scammer can then receive a new “salvage” or “flood” title, and sell it to unsuspecting buyers in auction.

A report by Utah’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division (MVED) “strongly encourages” residents to gather information when purchasing a vehicle.

“Our MVED police officers have prevented over 70 people in recent months from unknowingly purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle,” said MVED spokesperson Charlie Roberts.

Buyers are warned to be aware of flood-damaged vehicles with clean or “lost” titles.

There are several things a buyer can look for that warn of damage due to flooding.

According to MVED, if a car smells musty, there is a strong likelihood that it has been exposed to water. The seller may try to mask the smell with strong air fresheners or deodorizers.  Buyers are also warned to check for mud marks, and hidden dirt spots in strange places, such as in the glove box or under the dashboard.

MVED also encouraged buyers to run a Carfax, or other independent vehicle history report before purchasing a car.