BUYERS of used cars are being warned to consider the possible damage caused by recent flash floods before parting with cash for their next set of wheels.

There are fears that a problem that has become widespread in the United States and Australia is now beginning to appear in the UK as an increasing number of vehicles are appearing on the market after suffering serious weather-related damage.

In the first three months of this year some insurance companies received three times as many reports of storm damaged vehicles as they did for the whole of the previous 12 months.

"After Hurricane Katrina flood-damaged cars started appearing on the US market at twice their usual rate," says Roger Powell, general manager of

"Such cars may look fine at first glance but in many cases the safety and electronic systems can be compromised. People need to be aware that these cars will be hitting the market in the next few months," he warned.

Torrential rain in recent weeks forced motorists to abandon their vehicles to the rising waters.

Many vehicles which are damaged by flood waters, falling trees and windswept debris are repairable even though insurance companies may have written them off as uneconomic to fix. However, problems arise when the repairs are not carried out properly or the seller wants to hide the fact the car has been damaged in order to negotiate a better price.