Weather events causing flooding and landslips have meant a significant increase in the number of water damaged vehicles. Water damage can adversely affect a vehicle’s safety system components, so it’s important to be aware of the safety risks. Keep reading to find out how you can help to ensure impacted vehicles are safe to drive.
The biggest risk is to a vehicle’s electronic safety systems and the mechanics. Even if the water level only reaches the bottom of the door frame (the sill line), any water in the vehicle passenger compartments can cause corrosion of electronic components over time, increasing the chances of early failure.
Plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles are at greater risk. Even if there is no water in the passenger compartment, high voltage wiring and in some instances batteries, are mounted on the outer body which may take the brunt of the damage.
Simply drying out your vehicle is not sufficient from a safety perspective given the likelihood of damage to the vehicle’s electronic and mechanical safety systems. We strongly encourage people not to attempt to fix vehicles themselves or to drive or on-sell a water damaged vehicle.
If your vehicle is insured, you should work through your insurance company. They’ll arrange for your vehicle to be assessed and will work with you to repair the vehicle or write it off and settle your claim.
If the vehicle is written-off, it is deregistered and the Motor Vehicle Register is updated with the reason for the write-off. Usually, insurers sell these vehicles through damaged vehicle auctions.
More information is on the Insurance Council of New Zealand website(external link)
If your vehicle is not insured, we recommend you have a suitably qualified automotive technician complete a thorough inspection of the vehicle. They may recommend you take it to a specialist repair certifier.
Remember to get a quote for any work or inspection so you can make an informed decision on cost of repair versus the value of the vehicle. If you decide not to repair the vehicle, you should take the vehicle to a reputable panel beater or seller of car parts and disclose the water damage so they dispose of the vehicle correctly. You’ll need to cancel the vehicle’s registration (form MR15) and also complete a ‘Sold/disposed of your vehicle?’ form (MR13A).
Notify us of water damaged vehicles so we can note it in our system and add it to our publicly available list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please do not continue to use the vehicle, whether it’s driving it yourself or selling it to someone else as it potentially places people at risk on New Zealand roads.
If you have your vehicle repaired, it must be repaired safely. The repairs need to be undertaken by a reputable repairer who will ensure repairs are carried out to the manufacturers repair specifications.
RepairCert NZ have more guidance on how to deal with water damaged vehicles(external link)
Find vehicles reported as damaged or written off
Selling a motor vehicle (including disposing of it)
Waka Kotahi has issued guidance to vehicle inspectors on how to identify potential water damage, and what actions to take if they inspect a potentially water-damaged vehicle.
To have consumer protection when buying a vehicle, we recommend you go to a licensed or registered vehicle dealer, or organisation that is covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. 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:
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.
Remember to check the vehicle safety rating
Insurers will notify us about any written-off not yet registered water damaged motor vehicles. This includes vehicles that are disposed of, such as a damaged vehicle auction facility, or where the insured chooses to retain the damaged vehicle.
Water damage will be noted in our system using the vehicle details (year, make, model and VIN), as a safeguard in case the vehicle is registered in the future.
Yes. Water damaged vehicles written off by insurers and de-registered should be notified to Waka Kotahi and listed on a publicly available register. This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s a good place to check (please note Waka Kotahi isn’t legally liable if a car is water damaged and not listed).
Waka Kotahi also accepts notifications of water damaged vehicles from anyone – please get in touch with us at email@example.com