Why Do Cars Rust Near The Beach (Can The Ocean Cause Rust?)

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Have you ever noticed that cars tend to rust more near the sea? If not, take a drive through a beach community and take note of the vehicles. You’re sure to see a few rust-buckets parked near the ocean.

Most people notice that cars and other items easily rust if they’re by the ocean, but few people actually consider why it occurs.

The exception to this is if the car is yours. Then you’ll certainly do some research to find out why it chose your car.

In this article, we’ll discuss why cars rust near the sea and what you can do to prevent it from happening to your car. I’ll share my observations and what the car industry has done to prevent rust on newer vehicles.

A Few Observations Of Cars Rusting Near The Beach

Growing up, I made a mental note: never buy a nice car near the beach because it will begin rusting after a few years. This was the 1980’s and I was young.

I didn’t know why it happened by I was wise enough to observe the correlation.

In those days, car production was slower and it was common for people to drive vehicles for 20-30 years. Paint jobs weren’t as well-done and metal was exposed on many of the vehicles in my neighborhood.

It’s safe to say that I see far fewer rusty cars on the road today. Manufacturers have become better and the parts of the car have largely changed from metal to other materials.

Why Does Rust Occur On Cars Near The Sea

Let’s first take a look at the environment around the ocean. Coastal air is a breath of fresh air and it feels great against the skin too. But how does air differ from areas that aren’t coastal?

As wind passes over the sea it picks up moisture from the ocean and carries it inland. Coastal areas tend to have more moisture in the air (also known as humidity).

Water, as we know, can cause rusting when it combines with oxygen. Together, water and oxygen can cause metal to become oxidized and it will begin to rust (also known as Ferric Oxide).

Our vehicles are built with a lot of steel, which is made up almost entirely of iron!

But that’s not all…

The ocean air also contains salt and minerals. In fact, the ocean contains over 70 mineral nutrients and trace elements (this is one reason why swimming in the ocean is considered therapeutic to the body – so many minerals).

Salt is also a great conductor and the number of electrolysis reactions can accelerate corrosion in salt water.

So there you have it. Moisture in the air, combine with salt and many other minerals can promote rusting.

These Days, Why Do I See Less Rusty Cars Near The Ocean

If you’re like me, you may have observed there are less rusty beach cars than there once was. This is true!

There are a few reasons for this.

  1. Old Cars Used More Steel

Newer vehicles are lighter and use steel primarily around the frame. They also use far more plastic! Yep, much of your new car is made from plastic (bumpers, trim panels, wheel well arch, mirror housings.

Plastic is cheaper to use, more flexible and inexpensive. Just as important, plastic is rust-proof (which is great for the rust problem)

  1. Newer vehicles are protected properly

Rust usually occurs on a car when there is a scratch or bump. The protective paint is scraped off and the metal underneath is exposed to water (here comes the oxidation).

There are thicker coats of paint being applied to vehicles and they tend to withstand scratches as well. A car that keeps its metal covered will not rust!

Lesson Learned – Care For Your Car and Driver A New One

Since I still live by the ocean, I regularly check my car for nicks and scratches. A shopping cart, car door, and scraping against the curb can be the reasons rust starts.

Occasionally I’ll see rust on my tire rims but I don’t see it as a big deal.

I’m also thankful that I have less metal on my car. Some people view more plastic parts as being inferior to the way older cars were made but I prefer a lightweight car that costs less to repair.


If you’re like me you’ve seen some rust-buckets parked near the ocean. They are likely older vehicle models and have chipped paint.

You may have noticed that newer cars seem to have less rust. This is due to less metal and better paint that covers the steel.

Ocean air tends to have more moisture as well as salt and minerals. These characteristics make it great for fresh air and your skin, but make it tough on your car.

Moisture will cause rusting to metal and salt will speed up the process. Add over 70 minerals from the ocean water and rust will start eating away at your car in no time at all.

You can prevent the rust by monitoring the condition of your car. Do you have any metal exposed (from a ding or scratch). If so, try to cover the exposed metal as quickly as possible before rust sets on the metal.

Be careful when parking near other cars and near shopping carts at grocery stores!

I learned a lot while writing this article and hopefully you did too. Let me know if I missed anything or if you have tips for keep a car rust-free.

Thanks for reading and check out the homepage for the most recent Beach Life articles.