26 September 2023

Car tips to avoid second-hand ‘bomb’

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Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe has said a motor vehicle might have many owners over its lifetime which made it important 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,” Mr Newcombe said.

“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.”

He said it might also be difficult to get full insurance coverage for a vehicle that had been written-off.

“In the past 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,” Mr Newcombe said.

“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.”

He said a PPSR search would also reveal whether a vehicle had been stolen or had 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, but they must tell the truth if specifically asked,” Mr Newcombe said.

He said however there were no legal protections for consumers involved in private sales, so this was an area of greater risk.

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