Warning about buying used vehicles damaged by Kimberley floods

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerMotor industry
  • Consumers urged to be vigilant with risk of flood-damaged vehicles on the market
  • Potential buyers advised to quiz sellers and do online vehicle history checks
  • The vehicles may seem fine at first, but problems could arise after the sale

Used vehicle buyers are being warned to carry out thorough checks with the risk of flood-damaged vehicles from the Kimberley being sold on the WA market.

While the vehicle may seem fine at first glance, problems associated with water damage may surface after the sale.

Consumers are being urged to question the seller about the history of the vehicle and do some simple on-line checks to determine if it has been written-off. The seller should provide the licence papers to the purchaser, to confirm ownership and validity of the licence.

Before purchasing, prospective buyers should have the vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic, inspect its log book and search the online registry of written-off vehicles using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) found under the bonnet.

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.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Trish Blake urges buyers to get information about the vehicle’s history before committing to a sale. 

“There’s no obligation on dealers or auctioneers to voluntarily reveal any previous flood damage, but they must provide true information when asked by the buyer. So we urge prospective buyers to quiz the seller as to whether the vehicle has suffered any flood damage before finalising the sale,” Ms Blake said.

“The vehicle’s electrical systems will definitely be affected if damaged by floodwaters and corrosion issues could emerge some time later. There may also be problems getting the vehicle registered in WA and insurance companies may refuse to offer any cover.

”There is a greater risk for buyers involved in private sales as there are no legal protections. Buying through a licensed dealer will offer warranty protection either under the Australian Consumer Law or, depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle, the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.”

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 consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au 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.


Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / cpmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
16 Feb 2023

Last modified: