Crash course in written-off vehicles

WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

A motor vehicle might have many owners over its lifetime, so one of the most important things you can do when buying a used car is to thoroughly investigate its history.

Unlike ‘statutory’ write-offs which can only be used for spare parts, it is legal for ‘repairable’ write-offs to be registered and sold in Western Australia, so long as these vehicles have passed a safety inspection.

Even though this inspection may declare the vehicle to be roadworthy, the fact it has been deemed a ‘repairable write-off’ – or too costly to repair – means some features or functions may no longer work. You may also struggle to get full insurance coverage for a vehicle that has been written-off and find it has a lower market value as a result.

In the last 12 months, Consumer Protection has received 67 enquiries and 20 complaints about written-off vehicles. We are concerned these figures may rise as more repairable write-offs are sold in WA during this period of high demand for used vehicles.

No matter whether a used-car is being bought privately or through a dealer, we always recommend paying the small $2 fee to search the national Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR), which contains a registry of written-off vehicles maintained by the Department of Transport in WA. A PPSR search will also reveal whether a vehicle has been stolen or has outstanding finance owing.

If buying through a dealer or auctioneer, remember to ask lots of questions about the vehicle’s background. This is important because dealers and auctioneers don’t have to voluntarily reveal any details about the history of the vehicle, such as whether it has been written-off, but they must tell the truth if specifically asked. There are no legal protections for consumers involved in private sales, so this is an area of greater risk.

Consumers who knowingly decide to buy a repairable write-off are encouraged to confirm that all of the features or functions operate as expected and to an acceptable standard beforehand.

Car buyers who believe they have been misled can lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website: www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au

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