Why used car market just got more dangerous for buyers

In the Orlando-area neighborhood of Orlo Vista, residents are having to work around flood-damaged cars, figuring out carpooling schedules to make sure everyone gets to school and work. But that may get harder soon. 

Mechanics warn even the cars that are still functional after a flood could start seeing problems later on.

Ametha Medor, who lives in Orlo Vista, lost her car in Hurricane Ian.

"Motor no good, everything no good," she explained. "I need help."

Medor says she just paid that car off a few months ago. She bought it new in 2019 and says her insurance isn’t giving her enough money to keep up with 2022 prices.

That means she’ll be turning to the used car market – something Carfax says people should be wary of right now. 

"We are concerned, especially after Hurricane Ian, because the current used car market – we’ve never seen conditions like this before," said Emilie Voss, Director of Public Relations for Carfax. We’re at record-level prices and inventory is so low that unfortunately, you can bet that con men are going to take advantage of that."


Carfax estimates over 350,000 cars were damaged in Hurricane Ian.

And many of those will go out for sale to unsuspecting customers.

"These vehicles – most of them – are literally rotting from the inside out. They have electrical, mechanical, health, safety issues. Things like, maybe the brakes aren’t working properly or the airbags won’t deploy in an emergency, or there’s bacteria growing in the ventilation system," said Voss.

FOX 35 talked with several mechanics all over Central Florida who confirmed, hidden flood damage is an issue in the used car market. 

They and Carfax all said it’s important to get a mechanic to inspect any used car before you buy it. Joseph Cox, owner of Joe’s Auto Repair, hammered in that point.

"We do have customers from time to time that bring a vehicle they thought was okay, and unfortunately we’ve found stuff that would’ve made them probably decide not to buy it," said Cox. 

Cox says there are lots of parts of the car that are extremely sensitive to water. 

"There’s lots of computers in vehicles nowadays. Many of those on the outside can look fine, but they can get water intrusion that can cause damage. And even though you don’t see the effect now, those can come out later," he pointed out. "Depending on how bad it was flooded, the typical things are wiring damage – wire, which has copper inside of it, can get corroded. And even though it might be okay in the beginning, over the years, that corrosion can grow and cause problems."

Cox says mildew and mold are big problems too.

"The carpet usually has a matting underneath it that even f you try to vacuum the water that ‘s in it out, that matting underneath it is still soaked and there can still be water that gets into the small cracks and crevices and cause rust."

Full Carfax reports come with a fee, but the company offers a free service that lets you check to see whether there’s any record of a car being damaged in a flood. All you do is type in the car’s VIN and your email address. The whole process takes seconds.