Skip to content
2 March 2023

Watch out for flood-damaged vehicles hitting the market

What to look out for so you don't buy a flood-damaged car.

Electronics are easily damaged in a flood and if water has entered the inside of a vehicle, insurance companies are likely to write off a car rather than invest in fixing it. There is no robust system in place however, to stop uninsured flood-damaged vehicles from being sold.

Beware car floord

Buying a vehicle

Some flood-damaged cars may look and work okay now, but once a few months have passed, it could be a different story as corrosion takes place.

Between 1 and 22 February 2023, 524 vehicles were added to Waka Kotahi, New Zealand Transport Agency’s register as write-offs with water damage.

Other countries have seen flood-damaged vehicles being offloaded to unsuspecting buyers.

Even if you don’t live near an area that flooded, you still need to be vigilant. Flood-damaged cars can be transported around the country to locations where consumers will be less aware of the warning signs to look for.

What you need to know

  • Be cautious of private sales at bargain prices.
  • Check Waka Kotahi, New Zealand Transport Agency's written-off vehicle register to see if the vehicle you’re eyeing up is listed on there.
  • Water damage can be hard to detect, it’s recommended you get an expert’s professional opinion on a vehicle’s roadworthiness and safety before making a decision.
  • Keep the details of whoever you purchase a vehicle from. If you discover after purchase that it suffered water damage, you should first talk to the person that sold you the vehicle.
  • Private sales are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act. You might be able to claim a refund or compensation under the Contracts and Commercial Law Act. This may involve taking your claim to the Disputes Tribunal.
  • There’s a full list of what to look out for on Waka Kotahi, New Zealand Transport Agency’s website.
  • Water-damaged write-offs must be inspected, repaired and then have that repair certified by Waka Kotahi-approved agents (see RepairCertNZ for more details of certifiers) before they can be re-registered and put back on the road. However, a permanent record of the vehicle having been written off for water damage remains.

Selling a vehicle

If you’re from an area affected by a flood and have a car that wasn’t damaged, be aware that buyers might suspect it was. Have a mechanic inspect your car before you put it up for sale so that you can present potential buyers with a clean bill of health.

Consumer advice line.

We know your rights

Got a problem with a faulty product, received shoddy service or been misled by a retailer? Our expert advisers can provide clear, practical advice that you can trust.

Learn more

Member comments

Get access to comment

Like what you're reading?