What should I do if I have purchased a written-off vehicle?

If you unwittingly buy a stolen car, the costs can be significant - fortunately, there are ways to circumvent this risk. A PPSR report is paramount before purchase. This report can help you ensure the vehicle you're interested in hasn't been written-off or stolen and that it doesn't have any money owing on it.

The Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) can inform you as to whether a vehicle has been written-off or stolen.

Fraudulent rebirthing of vehicles in Australia costs between $77 million and $256 million per year, according to the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.1 Unfortunately, many sellers may not disclose the information you need to make an informed decision.

Rather than taking someone's word for it, the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR), which is included in a PPSR report, can provide you with the information you need.

What is a written-off vehicle?

There are two categories when it comes to written-off vehicles - repairable write-offs and statutory write-offs:

  • Repairable write-offs are vehicles that have been assessed as being too costly to repair, but subject to state laws may be re-registered for road use if they have passed a vehicle safety and identity check.
  • Statutory write-offs are vehicles that have been declared unfit for the road due to severe damage or deterioration that prevents them from being driven.

Can you resell a repairable write-off?

If you purchase a repairable write-off you do have options. Unlike statutory write-offs, repairable write-offs can be sold although they generally fetch lower prices. As long as the vehicle can pass a mechanical check and a Vehicle Identity Validation (VIV) inspection, which certifies it as a previously damaged vehicle and not a rebirthed stolen vehicle, it can be registered and sold.

There are other restrictions when it comes to fixing, selling or re-registering repairable write-offs, so you should check with the relevant authorities in your state or territory.

What is the WOVR?

The best way to ensure you don't end up with a lemon is to check the PPSR.

The Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR) is included in a PPSR report, and it was implemented to stop the practice of rebirthing vehicles, which is when a damaged car is bought for its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), this number is then used on a stolen vehicle to give it a new identity. The WOVR records information about written-off vehicles under 16 years old, including:

  • Motor vehicles with a mass of up to 4.5t,
  • Trailers with a mass of 4.5t and over,
  • Motorcycles and caravans.

You can purchase a search certificate by doing a check on the PPSR. This search certificate outlines if the vehicle is currently encumbered, stolen or written-off. The PPSR formats the data for you to quickly get a clear picture of the car you're interested in.

What to do if your new car is a write-off

If your vehicle is a repairable write-off and you want to register it, a written-off vehicle inspection must be undertaken.

Auction houses and vehicle dealers are required to notify buyers of the vehicle's status.

Auction houses and vehicle dealers selling second-hand vehicles with a written-off classification are required to notify buyers of the status, according to the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. The vehicle must also be labelled with a sticker stating whether it is a statutory or repairable write-off.

Due to processing delays, a vehicle may not be listed on the WOVR when you purchase it. However it may be added at a later date, in which case, you'll be required to get a Vehicle Identity Validation (VIV) certificate to ensure its roadworthiness.

What information will the PPSR provide?

The best way to ensure you don't end up with a vehicle that has previously been written-off is to find out if it is listed on the WOVR by checking the PPSR. To get a PPSR report, you will need to enter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

The PPSR search provides you with a check for financial interests, written-off and stolen vehicles.

The report includes data provided by the National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System (NEVDIS). If the vehicle has been written off, it will show information about the incident including the incident type, the damage location, severity and type of damage.

The PPSR search provides a necessary check for financial interests, written-off and stolen vehicles, and it's well worth spending a couple of minutes to help ensure any vehicle you buy won't give you any future surprises.

1 Carsafe.com.au. Damaged Vehicle Criteria for Statutory Written-off Vehicles. Accessed April 2018.