An expert has shared advice on how to assess if a car was water damaged in the Auckland floods.
The floods are expected to be the largest event for motor vehicles in AA Insurance's history, with 1500 claims filed so far.
NZ Automobile Association (NZAA)'s Allister Wade said water can lead to mould in a vehicle, it can damage electronics, and can cause other ongoing effects, leading to many being written off — but there are ways to check if a car can be saved.
"Most people have got insurance, so the best advice would be to reach out to your insurance company," Wade said.
"Get them to assess the vehicle because your interpretation of small water ingress, it could be completely different to someone else.
"As long as you take a lot of photos, and get all the evidence — and obviously don't drive the vehicle."
The number of damaged vehicles has sparked fears that sellers could offload damaged vehicles to unknowing buyers.
"If an insurance company's involved, the vehicles will be deregistered, so you can do safety checks on a vehicle prior to buying [it].
"You can do AA history checks on a vehicle, so that'll show you that a vehicle's been deregistered and if someone tries to put it back through the system, then you can actually see that it's had water damage," Wade said.
What are the signs of water damage?
Wade said headlights are one place many people don't think to check when buying a car and looking for past water damage.
"Inside a headlight...if the vehicle has been under any water, you'll see stains and mud marks.
"That's something that's not very easily pulled apart and cleaned, so that's good from an outside looking in perspective," he explained, adding that the smell inside a vehicle is another key sign of water damage.
"It's like a musty, mouldy sort of smell, so what I always advise people is 'hop in the car, shut all the doors, don't turn anything on, just sit there for a moment and just have a smell'."
There might be a strong smell of deodorants in the vehicle as well, if the seller has tried to hide the damage.
Under a carpet mat is a good place to check for recurring dampness, and checking a seat belt by pulling it out as far as possible is another spot that many people don't think to clean properly, Wade said.
"Obviously people are going to find it hard to try and clean every single aspect of a vehicle."
The spare wheel compartment is another good place to look for potential damage, he added.
"Have a look if there's any tide lines on the actual wheel itself.
"And if you're buying a vehicle, also buy from renowned dealers," Wade said.
"The biggest thing is, if you're unsure, reach out for the experts."