Watch Out for Flood-Damaged Cars from Hurricane Ian

Even if Hurricane Ian passed you by unharmed, pay attention if you’re in the market for a vehicle. And be prepared to pay even more.

Flooded Car on an Urban Street after a hurricane
(Image credit: Getty Images)


Among the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, both across Florida and in areas of the East Coast that suffered its wrath: flooded vehicles. While this is a common outcome of cyclonic storms and their heavy rain and storm surge, Hurricane Ian struck in the middle of an already stressed car market.

You’ve probably heard about how an ongoing semiconductor shortage has led to a shortage of new cars; that in turn has raised demand (and prices on) used cars.

Just how many vehicles Hurricane Ian damaged will be assessed in the weeks to come, but if past is prologue, take a look at what Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane Ida did in 2021: It caused water damage to 212,000 cars, according to an estimate from CarFax.

Consumers having to replace hundreds of thousands of cars is about the last thing this market needed. But also: what happens to the flooded vehicles? Because water, whether salt or fresh, is so damaging to vehicles, many are written off as total losses, which means their owner (assuming they have comprehensive coverage on the vehicle) gets a check and is on their own to find a new car. But a portion of those flood damaged vehicles will be repaired and put back into service. That’s where car shoppers need to pay attention.

“CarFax estimates there are currently about 400,000 vehicles on the road with prior flood damage,” said Emilie Voss, public relations director for CarFax. “That’s up 6% from 2021 and those numbers are before Ian.”

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Senior Retirement Editor,

Elaine Silvestrini has worked for Kiplinger since 2021, serving as senior retirement editor since 2022. Before that, she had an extensive career as a newspaper and online journalist, primarily covering legal issues at the Tampa Tribune and the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey. In more recent years, she's written for several marketing, legal and financial websites, including and, and the newsletters Auto Insurance Report and Property Insurance Report.