Insurers: buyers beware of flood damaged vehicles

Insurers are urging buyers to look for signs of water damage and to check Waka Kotahi’s written off vehicle register when buying a vehicle so they can make well informed decisions.

Between 1 and 22 February, 524 vehicles were added to the register as write-offs with the water damage annotation.

“Until they are properly repaired and certified as such, flooded vehicles pose a safety risk, which is why insurers write them off in the first instance,” said Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa (ICNZ) Chief Executive, Tim Grafton. “When writing them off, insurers deregister them as water damaged write-offs on Waka Kotahi’s Motor Vehicle Register then dispose of them through salvage companies.”

Water can easily get into electrical and mechanical components and start to corrode them. This means failures can often take weeks to become apparent. Problems can affect many vehicle systems, including those related to safety.

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.

While insurers act responsibly to get water damaged vehicles written-off, off the road and deregistered in the first instance, there is no robust system in place to ensure the safety of flood-affected uninsured vehicles. Owners of such vehicles should take them to be inspected by main dealers or other appropriately qualified independent experts.

“Just because a vehicle that’s for sale isn’t on the register as being flooded, it can’t be taken for granted that it hasn’t been. It might just be that the owner didn’t have appropriate insurance in place to trigger a write-off. For the sake of everyone’s safety, it’s essential that buyers take particular care to have any vehicle professionally inspected to look for signs of water damage before purchase,” added Tim.

Contact/Tukua ki:  [email protected]

Notes to editors

Water damaged vehicles: what to look for (from Waka Kotahi’s website).

Regardless of who is selling a vehicle, people should consider having a professional independent pre-purchase inspection done and highlight that you are concerned about water damage. While not guaranteed that all damage will be identified, this is still your best option to have the vehicle checked before you purchase.

Here are signs you can also look for:

  • a musty smell inside the passenger compartment
  • wet or damp carpet
  • excessive condensation on the inside of glazing and lighting lenses
  • mould or mildew on interior panels, fabrics, and seatbelt webbing
  • water line marks on door panels and other interior components
  • silt in the crevices of interior panels such as speaker covers and air conditioning air vents
  • corrosion on seat base support springs
  • irregular noises or faults in electrical systems, eg flickering lights, including dashboard lights, or having to jiggle the ignition key to start the vehicle
  • corrosion and/or oxidation on exposed metal components such as under dashboard components/panels and seatbelt anchorages: aluminium oxidation will show up as a white powder residue; copper oxidation will show up as a green discolouration
  • excessive debris, silt, or water lines in the engine bay compartment or in the crevices of engine components such as alternators.

Unfortunately, some owners may try to sell water damaged vehicles that they’ve tried to fix themselves, without using properly qualified experts.

We recommend that you keep the details of whomever 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.

Source: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/vehicles/buying-and-selling-a-vehicle/water-damaged-vehicles-what-you-need-to-know/

RepairCert NZ note on flood damaged vehicles:



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