Are you considering buying a used car? Then consider this.

November 20, 2018 / by RCR / Litigation / 0 Comments

We recently acted for a client, who bought a commercial truck from the licensed motor dealer and discovered after 6 months that the truck had been water damaged and badly defective.

In the last 12 months many states were hit by bad weather and flooding. Many private car owners as well as the car yards across the country had cars inundated and lost.

Water can cause irreversible damage to the vehicle’s engine, electrical and computer systems. The problems may become apparent only after months or years of use.

The write offs are classified into two categories – statutory write off and economical write off. If a vehicle had been fully submerged or damaged by salt water for at least 48 hours, the vehicle would most probably be categorised as a statutory write off. Usually the statutory write offs cannot be reregistered and any manufacturer’s warranty on such vehicles is void.

Before you buy a used car make sure that you obtain a second opinion from an experienced mechanic. Although the repairable write offs do not always get recorded on car history searches, it is recommended to obtain REVS and RCheck searches to see if any encumbrances or previous damage was recorded against the engine’s VIN.

What are your rights if you bought a water damaged car?

If you purchased a water damaged vehicle from a licenced motor dealer, check whether the motor dealer complied with his/her obligations under the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 (Qld) and (Motor Dealing Practice Code of Conduct) Regulation 2001 (Qld). In particular, the code of conduct provides that the motor dealer is under an obligation to not give false or misleading information regarding the condition of a used vehicle. As such, it is prudent to ask the specific question to the motor dealer, ‘has this car been damaged or affected by water?’

You may also have a claim against the dealer for misleading and deceptive conduct. A motor vehicle (even if purchased for business purposes) comes under the definition of consumer goods and services under the new Consumer and Competition Legislation 2010 (Cth).

If you purchased your vehicle from a private seller, he/she may be liable for negligent misstatements made about the condition of the vehicle.

What to look for when buying a used car?

  • Check comparative prices, if the price sounds too good to be true, then it most certainly is!
  • Always obtain a VCheck search of the VIN number;
  • Always make sure the seller has provided you with a safety certificate;
  • Get a certified mechanic to service the car before you buy it, if possible, obtain service from the car brand dealership – they would be able to confirm whether the car is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty;
  • Ask the seller straight forward questions about the condition of the car – what is wrong with the car? Why is it so cheap? Was it bought at an auction? Has it ever been written off? Has it ever been water damaged? Has it ever been water damaged/inundated in flood waters?
  • Inspect the car for signs of water damage – check for signs of corrosion, rust, mud and dampness in the places that can be easily overlooked when cleaned – glove box, tool pouch, spare tyre, under the floor mats. Check the car manual, does it look like it’s been wet? Does the car look like it has been freshly repainted?

Have purchased a water damaged vehicle? Contact our litigation lawyers for advice.