After the heavy rains brought by Florence to the Carolinas stopped, estimates about the number of vehicles that were destroyed by the storm began to roll in that made it clear the storm would have far less of an impact that the pair of storms that reached Texas and Florida a year ago.
All told, Florence is expected to cause at least 20,000 vehicles to be damaged or destroyed due to flooding, and as many as 40,000 vehicles, according to estimates from Black Book and Cox Automotive.
"While estimates of any damaged or destroyed vehicles from Hurricane Florence at this time are still preliminary, we believe any estimates will be much milder in comparison to the volume of damage we saw last year in Texas and Florida," said Anil Goyal, Black Book's executive vice president of operations. "We will have to continue to monitor the next several days and weeks to see if the damage estimate change. As such, the damage could have an impact in prices rising slightly in the near term in the affected region, especially since affordable used small- and midsize cars were already in high demand before the storm hit."
Part of the reason for the lower impact is due to the more sparsely populated areas of the Carolines where Florence hit. The coastal communities soaked by Florence have about 325,000 residents compared to the 6 million people in the Houston metro area that was hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
An estimated 600,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Even though less vehicles were impacted this year, inventory is tighter and could cause used vehicle values to increase temporarily, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive.
"We've seen wholesale supplies tighten this year, and retail inventory has been moving more rapidly as a result," Smoke said on Sept. 18. "These are clear signs that demand continues to outpace supply. Going into last weekend, we had started to see more stabilization after values rose for the last three months, reaching an all-time record in August. Even though the replacement need will be smaller in this case, we could see values increase temporarily especially in the region due to limited supply. Hurricane Florence and its aftermath, however, will not have the notable impact on the larger U.S. vehicle market that we saw with Harvey."