What is a written off vehicle?
You've found the car of your dreams. It seems like a bargain. But you wonder how can it be so cheap?
Many buyers are surprised to learn that some of these vehicles are classified as "repairable write-offs" and that's why they're being offered at bargain basement prices.
Learn about economical repairable write offs and understand what you're getting in your used car
What is an economical repairable write off?
A vehicle that is classified as a repairable write off will have a listing in the written off vehicle register.
Essentially, these cars were deemed uneconomical to repair by an insurance company and subsequently "written off" and a payout made to the owner for the value of the vehicle.
Many owners will then go on to sell the written off vehicle to a business that specialises in collecting "damaged cars" - or they may even elect to pay for the repairs themselves. The car is then repaired and put through a written off vehicle inspection. Once the repaired vehicle is deemed roadworthy, it re-registered and can be sold on.
There is nothing essentially "wrong" with buying a repairable write-off as it must have passed a number of regulatory checks before it is put back on the road.
What it will affect is the perceived value of the vehicle... a written off vehicle that has been repaired will generally fetch a much lower price on the market.
Buyers need to keep this in mind when negotiating on the price of the purchase.
How can I find out if a vehicle was a repairable write off?
Unfortunately, sellers may not be upfront about a car's history. Many sellers will make up personal reasons for why the car is priced so low, like the owner lives overseas and is looking to sell the car at any price etc.
Others may even try and fetch the market rate for the standard make and model of the vehicle on the used car market - or worse still, try to illegally sell an "unrepairable write-off or statutory write-off" which has been deemed unfit for the roads and must be used for scrap.
However, buyers can do a check on the vehicle they are looking to purchase by running a car history report on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
A repairable write-off stays registered with the Written-off Vehicle Register, so it's easy to find out if a seller is being upfront about the vehicle's past. Purchasing a car history report can really save you money when it matters.
By knowing the vehicle is in fact a repairable write-off, you'll be armed with valuable information on what the car is worth and how much you'll be willing to pay.
If you are unsure the car you are about to buy has been a repairable write-off, buy a car history report now for $36.95.
Laws about repairable write offs in NSW
In 2011 the NSW Government introduced legislation to ban the re-registration of all ‘repairable written-off' vehicles to clamp down on car rebirthing.
Repairable write offs are cars that have been in an incident and suffer significant damage can be deemed uneconomical for an insurance company to repair.
The vehicle can then be repaired, checked by the Roads Authority and resold to anyone.
What does this law mean for me?
Repairable write offs cannot be sold at auctions, where the vehicles can then be re-birthed and on-sold to unsuspecting consumers in NSW ONLY. If you buy a car registered in NSW you may be stuck with a lemon.
If you buy a car in another state that is a repairable write off you will not be able to register that car in NSW.
What can I do?
Check the vehicle's history! Get the VIN for the car you are considering and check the car's history online.
A car history report will provide you with advice as to whether the car of your dreams has been reported as a write off. A REVS check is not enough.