Flood cars – avoid buying washed-up vehicle

WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

The floodwaters may have subsided in Eastern Australia, but consumers in Western Australia are being warned to brace for the tsunami of flood-damaged cars headed our way.

With as many as 20,000 vehicles damaged in the Queensland and northern New South Wales’ flood events earlier this year, there are fears many of these compromised vehicles will be transported across to WA and sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Water can affect a vehicle’s electrical systems and later cause corrosion, plus there could be problems getting it registered or even insured in WA.

There are numerous ways consumers can steer clear of water-damaged vehicles, with the first step being to question the seller about the vehicle’s history and to specifically ask if it has been damaged by floodwaters or is a write-off.

This is because motor vehicle dealers and auctioneers in WA don’t have to voluntarily reveal that the vehicle for sale has been affected by floodwaters, but they are required under the Australian Consumer Law to tell the truth if specifically asked. Buying through a licensed dealer will also offer some warranty protection depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle.

There aren’t any legal protections for consumers involved in private sales, so this is an area of greater risk. If you’re considering buying a car through a private seller, investigate the vehicle’s glovebox for a tide mark, look under the seat mountings for signs of water debris and open the fuse box to check for debris. Also lift any seat covers and inspect the original fabric.

No matter whether you’re buying privately or through a dealer, you should always inspect the log book and arrange for an independent qualified mechanic to check over the vehicle.

A smart move would be to spend the small $2 fee payable to search the Department of Transport’s online registry of written-off vehicles via the national Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR).

You can find further information about storm or flood damaged vehicles on the Consumer Protection website

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