ADOT warns of scammers selling flood-damaged vehicles

Recent storms have given Arizonans in the market for used cars more reason to pay close attention to a vehicle’s condition and history, especially in private sales, Arizona Department of Transportation officials stated in a release.


Cars damaged by floodwaters such as those resulting from Hurricane Florence can sometimes find their way to Arizona to be sold, the release stated, noting that if a vehicle is flood-damaged, the title should say “salvage” or “flood damage.”

“We want to make sure potential buyers remain vigilant when looking at used vehicles and not sign anything until the vehicle has been checked over bumper to bumper,” stated Willie Hall, detective sergeant with ADOT’s Office of Inspector General, which investigates fraud involving titles and vehicle sales.

“Flood-damaged vehicles that have been repackaged and dressed up are a common scam after major weather events like what we’ve seen recently.”

Potential buyers should check out all areas of a vehicle, looking inside under the carpet and floor mats and examining the trunk for dirt, silt and mold, according to ADOT.

“Check under the dashboard and other hard-to-reach places as well. Criminals usually don’t clean all of those places. Finally, take a good whiff in those areas. Water damage leaves a distinctive smell,” the release stated.

Electrical and mechanical components may be damaged by flood waters, and ADOT advises checking the engine for signs of rust or random new parts.

“Get under the vehicle and check the suspension for water damage. Any of those things could be a sign that you’re in danger of buying a flood-damaged vehicle,” according to the release. “It’s always a good idea to have any used vehicle you’re looking at buying checked out by a trusted auto mechanic.”

A vehicle identification number can be used to obtain the vehicle history through an online service that may charge a fee. This check can uncover a vehicle’s status as “salvage” or “non-repairable,” as well as maintenance problems, collisions, insurance claims and titles issued in other states.

For more information:, 24-hour fraud hotline at 602-277-5684 or email

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