How does rust affect car value?

    Rust is one of the biggest and most expensive problems your car can have. Unless you take good care of your vehicle, rust can end up corroding your car’s exterior and significantly affect how much your car is worth.

    If you live in a wet or humid environment, your car will be at a higher risk of rusting, especially if you don’t regularly clean and wax the exterior.

    Read on to learn about how to prevent vehicle rust, the cost of repair, and what to expect if you’re selling a vehicle with rust.

    Key info:

    • Rust’s impact on car values – Understand how rust affects your car’s resale value and why addressing it is crucial for a good deal.
    • Car rust removal – Discover the best-value methods of removing rust, whether it’s an at-home product or a professional service.
    • Prevention is key – Get simple tips on preventing car rust, extending your vehicle’s life, and maintaining its value.
    a red VW with rust

    Even if you have a very desirable car model, if it’s rusted you’ll lose value.

    How much does rust devalue a car?

    Rust can substantially devalue a car, by at least 10-20% – or more, if the rust is severe, like in the above photo.

    Minor surface rust (such as small spots that can be treated) might lead to a devaluation of around 10%, whereas more extensive and structural rust can result in a loss of at least 20% of the price the same car would get, were it in good condition. Both resale and trade-in, or part-exchange, values are affected by rust – so it’s going to cost you, no matter how you sell your car.

    There are a few vehicle parts that are particularly prone to rusting, and it’s worth knowing what the damage could be:

    Body panels

    Minor surface rust spots on body panels might lead to a devaluation of around 10%. This type of rust is normally surface-level and cosmetic, and can be addressed with treatments to remove the rust and re-seal the metal.

    Frame and chassis 

    Rust affecting your car’s frame and chassis can result in a loss of 20% or even more, as the integrity of these metal parts could be compromised. Structural rust risks the car’s safety and longevity, which significantly impacts its value. You could even fail your MOT due to rust on the car’s frame and chassis.

    Undercarriage and suspension

    Rust affecting other critical components like the undercarriage and suspension has a substantial impact on depreciation. These parts are essential for the car’s performance and safety and, again, you could fail your MOT if these parts are rusted.

    This method offers the most accurate and specific measurements, making it ideal for assessing subtle changes in tread depth. However, it does require purchasing a gauge, which is an additional cost.

    Mechanical parts

    a car engine that has gone rusty
    A rusty engine will cost you – it’s unsafe to drive with, and expensive to replace. However, it’s unlikely your engine will rust and you should be able to prevent it from becoming a severe problem.

    While rust on mechanical parts like the engine might not be as common, it can happen in very humid conditions and will lead to severe issues. For example, a rusty engine block could result in engine damage, leading to costly repairs or even a full engine replacement.

    This method is quick and easy, doesn’t require special tools, and provides a simple pass/fail result. However, it may not be as precise as a dedicated tread depth gauge and doesn’t measure the exact depth in millimetres.

    Is it worth getting a DIY car rust remover?

    Investing in a car rust remover product is often a worthwhile decision, especially when dealing with surface rust. Here’s why it’s worth considering:

    Preventing structural damage

    Surface rust, if left for too long, can advance and cause structural issues. Timely removal can prevent the rust from spreading and corroding deeper and further across the metalwork, saving you from costly repairs in the future.

    Preserving your vehicle’s value

    By investing in rust removal, you can maintain your vehicle’s worth by nipping structural damage in the bud. Ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, the cost of a professional rust removal service can represent a fraction of the reduction in your car’s value due to rust.

    Maintaining your vehicle’s look

    Rust not only affects your car’s value but also its appearance. Removing rust can improve the visual appeal of your vehicle, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

    Long-term investment

    Rust removal is an investment in the long-term health and value of your car. It can pay off when you decide to sell your vehicle.

    How much does it cost to get car rust repaired?

    The cost of car rust repair in the UK can vary widely based on the extent of the rust and the specific repairs needed. The ballpark repair figures you can expect are as follows:

    1. Minor surface rust repair: Repairing minor surface rust, which hasn’t spread extensively, can cost from about £100 to £300, depending on your location and the expertise of the garage.

    1. Moderate rust repair: If the rust has affected larger areas or is in more critical locations, the cost can range from about £400 to £1,000. This is because the repair can involve sanding, repainting, resealing, and possibly even panel replacement.

    1. Extensive structural rust repair: Repairing rust that has caused structural damage is more complex and costly, because parts may in some cases have to be fully replaced. This type of repair can involve welding, replacing entire panels, and even sections of the car’s frame or the engine. You can expect to pay at least £1,000. Your insurer may decide to write off your car in the case of extremely extensive damage.

    Is rust considered frame damage?

    rusty frame damage
    Frame damage brings down your car’s value by thousands – it’s important to nip rust in the bud.

    Rust on your car is not always considered frame damage, but it can lead to frame damage if left unattended. 

    Extensive rust that penetrates the car’s body can weaken structural components over time. If rust affects key structural elements of the vehicle, such as the frame or chassis, it can compromise the car’s integrity. In this advanced stage, it is considered frame damage because it impacts the safety and functionality of the vehicle.

    It’s essential to regularly inspect your vehicle for rust, especially in areas prone to corrosion, such as the undercarriage and frame. Detecting rust early and addressing it promptly can prevent it from progressing to the point of causing frame damage.

    How to prevent car rust?

    Preventive measureDescription
    Regular cleaningFrequent washing removes corrosive substances like dirt, salt, and road grime that cause the metal to rust. Pay special attention to the undercarriage.
    Waxing and sealingApply a quality car wax to create a protective barrier against moisture, dirt, and environmental factors. Choose rust-inhibiting sealants for vulnerable areas.
    Parking and storageShelter your car in a garage or carport when possible to shield it from the elements. Avoid parking in areas prone to flooding.
    Keep it dryDry your car thoroughly after rain and washing to prevent lingering moisture on the surface, which can lead to rust.
    Inspect and address minor rustRegularly inspect your vehicle for rust, even minor spots, and address them promptly through sanding, priming, and repainting.


    Will a dealership accept a trade-in or buy my car that’s rusty?

    Dealerships often buy rusty cars and accept trade-ins with rust, particularly when it’s limited to minor surface rust. However, the presence and extent of rust can impact the value. Expect a lower offer for a rusty car compared to a rust-free one. 

    If the rust is extensive or has led to structural damage, the likelihood of a dealership giving you a good deal in either a sale or a part-exchange decreases significantly, and the value may be greatly reduced. In such cases, addressing the rust issues before selling your car will prove more financially beneficial.

    Can a dealership sell you a vehicle with rust?

    Yes, dealerships can sell you a vehicle with rust so it’s important that you inspect it before purchasing. This is a bit of a grey area as the dealership should disclose to you the condition of the car, but not all will.

    Do you have to disclose rust to a potential buyer?

    You should disclose rust to a potential buyer if you are a private seller or dealership. It’s not illegal to not disclose rust, unless it’s caused a structural issue that can affect the stability of the car itself which can make the car less safe. It is illegal to not disclose a category write-off or a failed MOT.

    How much undercarriage rust is normal?

    The degree of normal undercarriage rust varies, depending on factors like the car’s age and location. Minor surface rust on exposed metal is common but usually not problematic. Extensive rust or structural issues warrant professional inspection and repair.

    How to cover rust on a car?

    You can temporarily cover rust by cleaning the area, applying a rust remover, and using automotive touch-up paint and sealant. This is a short-term solution though, and professional rust removal and repair are recommended for a lasting fix.

    How to fix rust bubbles in car paint?

    To repair rust bubbles in the paint, you can start by sanding, applying a rust converter, filling with body filler, and repainting the area to match the car’s finish. A garage will always do this better than a DIY job.

    What is rust-proofing for a car?

    Rust-proofing involves applying coatings or sealants to protect a car from rust and corrosion, especially in areas with high humidity or salt use on roads. It extends a car’s lifespan and value, and is typically provided when you get your car serviced.

    How to track the value of your car?

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how much money rust might take off the price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once. Follow changes to your car’s value to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Ready to sell your car?

    Want to read more about owning, valuing, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from depreciation to maintaining your car’s value. Understand your car’s worth in the wider market.