How to spot if cars for sale in Dubai have been damaged by flooding

Experts weigh in on how to ensure you don't buy a used-car that's suffering from flood-related water damage

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Concern is growing among motorists that the used car market might soon have an influx of owners trying to get rid of flood-damaged cars.

Many fear that, because insurance companies are unlikely to cover the cost of flood-related repairs if the owner doesn't have a comprehensive policy, dishonest sellers will try to dump problem cars into the hands of others.

The minimum legal requirement for car insurance in the UAE is that you have a third-party policy, which covers damage caused to others, including their cars or property.

Such policies do not cover the policyholder's own vehicle if you have caused an accident, or in cases of natural disasters and flood damage.

When an insurance claim has been denied it gives people more incentive to try to get rid of a vehicle on the secondary market
Adam Whitnall, chief executive, Drive Ninja

This means the cost of repairs has to be paid for by the vehicle owner.

“When an insurance claim has been denied it gives people more incentive to try to get rid of a vehicle on the secondary market,” says Adam Whitnall, chief executive of car comparison site Drive Ninja.

“They'll want to get some value from the car so it's reasonable to assume a number will end up for sale.”

However, there are ways to check for flood damage before deciding to take the plunge and buy a car.

The National speaks to experts to find out what to watch out for before handing over any money.

Rusty parts

“You'll really want to get a look underneath. Take it to a garage and get it up on a hoist,” says Mr Whitnall.

“You want to be looking for signs of rust on the underside of the body, around the suspension components and around the wheels.

“Basically you're looking for rust where there shouldn't be any.”

“One of the easiest ways to spot it is the smell,” says Glenn Power, co-founder of Dubai-based repair garage PowerWorks.

“There’ll often be a telltale damp and musky smell if there’s been water damage.

“Sometimes if there’s an overwhelming smell of freshness it might suggest the seller is trying to hide something too.”

The major cause of concern is if the water has got into the car’s electrics it could slowly cause long-term damage.

The simplest way to spare yourself the anxiety of wondering if you’re buying a flood-damaged car is to take it to a garage for an independent assessment before buying it, says Mr Power.

“The only way that flood damage wouldn’t be spotted in tests by a garage would be if all the damaged parts had been replaced with new ones,” he says, adding that would mean there was no reason not to buy a fully repaired car.

“However, it would be likely that the owner of the car would hold on to it if they went to such lengths to repair it.”

Water marks

Mr Power gives an example of how his garage detected flood damage to a car that its owner had not told them about.

“Somebody had brought us a car which was to be sold and I noticed the number plates were only a few weeks old and the car clearly wasn’t,” he says.

“It struck me as strange. When we looked inside the car’s headlights we could see a tide mark from where water had got in.

“The water line had obviously been managed and polished and cleaned off the car’s body.

“We were able to flag this up to the customer and explain that it was probably not a good idea to buy this car.”

Test the lights and windows

Mr Whitnall also advises taking some time to check the car's electricals.

“Spend some time in the car and turn the lights on and off to make sure they are working. Wind the window up and down and play with the radio settings and check the speakers are operating,” he says.

These simple checks, he says, will go some way in ensuring a car was not damaged by the recent flooding.

He also says it is unlikely that attempts to sale flood-damaged vehicles will become a major problem in the used car market.

“Even if you consider all the cases where the insurance company did not pay out, not all of those owners are going to try to sell their car dishonestly,” says Mr Whitnall.

“It's going to be a small number and, with thousands of cars being bought and sold each day, you've got to remember the market will move on from this type of event quickly.”

Updated: May 08, 2024, 8:56 AM