Advice on how to avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle

Motor vehicle dealers and auctioneers in WA are obliged to tell the truth if specifically asked whether a vehicle has been damaged by floodwaters, according to Consumer Protection. File picture

THERE are fears flood-damaged vehicles from the eastern states will be sold in WA with Consumer Protection offering advice to people thinking of buying second-hand vehicles.

Consumer Protection is urging buyers to question sellers about the history of vehicles and to specifically ask if they have been damaged by floodwaters or are a write-off.

Executive director Trish Blake said there were a number of checks that should be carried out that would reveal the vehicle’s history whether it was a car, truck, caravan, trailer, bus or motorcycle.

Ms Blake said motor vehicle dealers and auctioneers in WA were not obliged to voluntarily reveal that a vehicle for sale had been affected by the recent floods in the eastern states, but they were obliged to tell the truth if specifically asked.

“It would be a breach of the Australian Consumer Law if dealers and auctioneers failed to disclose the true history of the vehicle when asked, so buyers should interrogate them, especially while there is a danger of flood damaged vehicles being sold here,’’ she said.

“There are no legal protections for consumers involved in private sales, so this is an area of greater risk.

“Before purchasing, prospective buyers should have the vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic, inspect its logbook and search the online registry of written-off vehicles using the vehicle identification number (VIN) found under the bonnet.

“The seller should provide the licence papers to the purchaser, to confirm ownership and validity of the licence.”

Motor Trade Association of WA chief executive officer Stephen Moir said it was estimated that as many as 20,000 vehicles had been damaged by the recent floods in south-eastern Queensland and northern NSW.

Mr Moir said many of the vehicles could be sold to unsuspecting buyers in WA who may not realise there was a problem until after the sale.

“The vehicle’s electrical systems will definitely be affected if damaged by floodwaters and corrosion issues may emerge sometime later,’’ he said.

“There may also be problems getting the vehicle registered in WA and insurance companies may refuse to offer any cover.

“So buyers need to do extra checks to make sure they know the full history of the vehicle before deciding to buy it.

“Buying through a licensed dealer will offer some warranty protection depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle.”

If a vehicle is deemed to be a ‘statutory’ write-off, it can’t be sold or registered and may only be used for spare parts.

If a vehicle is deemed to be a ‘repairable’ write-off, it can only be registered and then sold once it is repaired and passes a safety inspection.

The Department of Transport in WA maintains a registry of written-off vehicles which can be checked by the public via the national Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) There is a small $2 fee payable and there are many commercial websites that offer car history reports but usually charge a much higher fee.

More information about storm or flood damaged vehicles is available on the Consumer Protection website and enquiries can be made by email or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

Information about written-off vehicles is available on the Department of Transport website and enquiries can be made by calling 13 11 56.