How to Sniff Out Water-Damaged Used Cars from CARFAX

CARFAX estimates the widespread flooding across Florida and the Carolinas in the wake of Hurricane Ian potentially damaged as many as 358,000 vehicles. That number is on top of the 400,000 water-damaged cars that CARFAX data shows were already on the road in 2022 – before Hurricane Ian first made landfall.

Used-car shoppers need to be aware that these waterlogged vehicles could resurface anywhere around the country. Texas and Florida continue to lead the nation when it comes to the number of flood-damaged cars on the road, but CARFAX research shows these vehicles also show up in states where flooding might not be top of mind for car shoppers.

“We are seeing these flooded cars show up all around the country, putting unsuspecting buyers at risk,” said Emilie Voss, CARFAX spokesperson. “Cosmetically these cars might look great, but if you don’t know what to look for, it’s nearly impossible to tell they are literally rotting from the inside out. Floodwater can cause mechanical, electrical, health and safety issues in a vehicle even if it was submerged for only a short time.” CARFAX offers free resources for car buyers to help detect a waterlogged history before they make a purchase.

Following the devastation of hurricane Ida last year, New Jersey and New York saw the largest year-over-year percent increases out of all the states, with 68% and 48% respectively.

CARFAX has a free Flood Check® tool, a national map that shows where flood cars have washed up, and a flood damage checklist at

We’ve also included a list of the 7 telltale 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 that doesn’t 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