10:56 AM PST, November 23, 2021
Flooding from the historic storms that swept across the United States this year left both houses and cars underwater.
One of those vehicles was caught up during Hurricane Ida in a South Orange, New Jersey, parking lot in September, and is now filled with smelly mold.
“Undriveable, won’t start. It should just be junk for parts at this point,” said car owner Ulysses Lee.
But experts warn after every major flood, thousands of vehicles like this one are cleaned up and resold to unsuspecting buyers. That’s what Joyce Darden, 80, says happened to her used car, which records show she purchased from Enterprise Car Sales for $17,000.
Now every morning, Darden puts on goggles and a mask — not because of COVID-19 — but because she says her car is actually making her sick.
Houston auto appraiser Roy Bent inspected the car, and within minutes, he spotted what he says is proof of mold and water damage, including rust.
“[Rust] is a tell-tale sign that the vehicle has been involved in a flood,” Bent said.
He says another dead giveaway it’s a flood car is seeing sand in the engine.
“You should not have any sand in here. Do you see that?” Bent said.
Bent says the car’s electrical components are also compromised, including the airbag.
Darden says her doctors believe her headaches, earaches and sinus infection were triggered by severe mold exposure.
“Every time she jumps in here and steps on the floor and runs the AC, she’s just breathing it, breathing it,” mold expert Hansel O’Halloran told Inside Edition.
O’Halloran says he found extreme levels of toxic mold in the carpets of Darden’s vehicle.
“This should never happen to anybody,” Darden said.
Enterprise said there was no record of water damage to the car before they sold it and they stand by the sale. They also say they offered to inspect the car and buy it back.
Experts say there are nearly 400,000 flood-damaged vehicles on the road today. For tips on how to tell if you have a flood car, go to Carfax.com.