Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Looking at a "salt belt" car (I'm in GA). Thoughts?

Looking at a 2013 Highlander (base plus). Have been looking a lot, and found a car that’s a pretty good price, at least for my area ($22k, base plus with 46k miles). Outside the topic, it’s an I4 - the general consensus seems to push for V6, I know, but my previous (2002 highlander) was a 4-cylinder and it’s been rare that it’s been too much of an issue, for how I use it. Anyway, just to give a clear picture of the vehicle.

My question is regarding salt damage, since it’s a northern car. See photos in this gallery -

Is this the kind of thing that would give you pause? My father-in-law says it would be better to buy a car not from the north, and I can see the difference when he shows me cars from NC, etc. But I want to know if this is a “dealbreaker” sort of thing, or more a “it would be nice, but” kind of thing - or even if it’s something that may have become less of an issue perhaps since he was last in the market.

I’ve been looking a while, and would like to get my new car sooner rather than keep dragging it out looking for the “perfect” car/deal (particularly because the heat/ac died in my car in the last few weeks, and the cost versus trade value makes it prohibitive to fix, so… less than fun in GA. Also trying to still get what I can in the trade value before it drops much further).

He’s also found cheaper cars, but theyre eight-plus hours away in Florida mostly, and who knows what may be up with them.

Is this an issue to avoid and keep looking? The car in the photos is otherwise nice, just his makes me wonder.

For a 4 year old vehicle that does not look bad at all. The rust would not be a deal breaker for me.

I think the truck looks great underneath. No worries at all as far as I’m concerned. It could have only spent 3 winters max in the rust belt. I have a 15 year old car and a 12 year old truck that spent 80% of their time in the rust belt and while I’ve had some rust problems, they are not structural. This truck just has not seen enough salt to be an issue for maybe 10 more years and won’t again in the south. Go for it.

Your primarily looking at surface rust. All the bolts you see look fine and are not degraded so any mechanic who hasn’t dealt with rust in your area shouldn’t have an issue. I’ve got pics that would make you cringe of my 02 Tundra living here in New England.

1 Like

The rust in the photos doesn’t look bad at all to a NH resident like myself, however I would strongly recommend against buying any used vehicle until it’s been fully checked out by your mechanic and test driven by you. There are countless possible problems unassociated with rust.

For the record, the absolute worse environment for rust I’ve ever seen had no snow or road salt whatsoever… it was Guam!! Cars rotted out so fast there that we could almost hear the rust forming. The extreme humidity, high temperature, and salt air combination was amazingly aggressive.

A 2013 is only 4 years old max. It won’t have started body rust by now unless there was a flaw from the factory. If you buy it now and don’t ever drive it in salt again, it should be fine.

But that said, why if you live in Georgia would you ever bother with a northern car? You have your pick of cars that have never been exposed to rust-causing conditions. Get one of them. If you really want this northern car, it should be steeply discounted compared to similar cars that didn’t spend time in the tundra.

You’re kidding right? There isn’t a car made that won’t have some rust after just one winter in the north east. I’d love to see that vehicle that doesn’t.

I will agree that body rust shouldn’t appear for several years.

I’m confused. You disagreed with me in the first paragraph, and then immediately agreed with me in the second.

I believe @MikeInNH is referring to the body panels that don’t rust quite so easily unlike axles, control arms, suspension components, frames (body on frame vehicles) that are less protected.

For my truck, I currently use Fluid Film to help keep it from rusting any further in certain areas at the moment where it isn’t already protected.

I’m confused too. Yes you’re right. I was referring to rust in general.

Body rust has bee greatly reduced in the last 30 years. And there shouldn’t be much rust but there will be some after even 4 years in the rust belt. 30 years ago a 4yo car usually had rust through by 4 years.

To clarify for anyone else who found my original post unclear, I’m only now finding tiny, easily-dealt-with rust spots on my '07 Acura, and I live in Minnesota. Paint and sub-paint protectors are good enough now that they should easily keep the body (and only the body) rust free for 4 years barring a manufacturing flaw or some external influence like a sandstorm attacking the paint.

It’s a different story for the undercarriage, but because we aren’t concerned with the cosmetic appearance of stuff that we cannot see when the car isn’t on a lift, provided that stuff is functioning properly we don’t particularly care if they have some surface rust.

The main concern for most drivers is visible rust on the body, primarily because it looks bad. I’d be surprised if this minivan were to develop visible rust on the body in the next 8 years or so.

How many yeas do you plan to keep the car? 5 or less should be no issue.

1 Like