What is a Written-off Vehicle?

| 03 March 2011

You've found the car of your dreams and it seems like a real bargain. Maybe a Volkswagen Polo with just 8,000 km on it - and it's going for less than $16K! How can it be so cheap?

Is the seller out of his mind? 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 repairable write-offs and understand what you're getting in your used car.

What is a 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, as 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 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 car check on the vehicle their 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. 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.

Important: New Laws about Repairable Write-Offs in NSW

The NSW Government has introduced new legislation to ban the re-registration of all ‘repairable written-off' vehicles to clamp down on car rebirthing, Minister for Transport and Roads David Campbell announced on the 8th of April 2010. The commencement date for these new laws is 31st January 2011.

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 new law mean that mean for me?

From the date of commencement (31st Jan 2011) - Repairable Write-offs will no longer be able to be sold at auctions, where the vehicles can then be re-birthed and on-sold to unsuspecting consumers in NSW ONLY.

Once the legislation comes into effect 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 vehicles history! Get the VIN for the car you are considering and check the cars 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.

Why has the NSW Government done this?

According to Minister Campbell "There is a black market for purchasing written-off vehicles at auctions, then using stolen parts to rebirth and register the car, to be sold for a tidy profit."

"This isn't being done by licensed repairers - in most instances it's not financially viable for genuine repairers to repair these cars using legitimate parts."

In many cases, it's being done by unscrupulous operators in backyards and workshops using stolen parts, who then sell the vehicles to unwary motorists."

"More importantly, many of these vehicles have had dodgy repairs which can mask major structural damage. It's extremely unsafe."

It's estimated that as many as six out of ten of the 20,537 repairable written-off vehicles presented for re-registration in 2009 posed serious questions about the origin of the parts used to repair them.