Full report on the website - http://www.autoexpert.com.au/buying-a-car/buying-a-repaired-write-off
REVS check: http://www.revs.com.au/
Car History Report: http://www.carhistory.com.au/
Dodgy used cars cost Australians more than half a billion dollars every year. It’s big business. So here’s how to sidestep ‘rebirthing’ and other used used car sales scams - by making sure you don’t unwittingly drive away in a repaired write-off.
This report is inspired by Stephen, who contacted me via the website: He’s thinking of buying a 2014 Kia Rio that’s a repaired write-off - effectively 40 per cent below fair market value for the equivalent used car. So: it’s above board - but is it a good idea?
A repaired write off is the six million dollar man of used cars. Only it’s not better, stronger or faster. The best you can hope for is that it’s almost as good, and a lot cheaper.
Repairable write-offs happen when insurance companies declare a vehicle uneconomical to repair. This might be following a crash, or some other insurance event like a flood, or severe hail. The owner cops a cash payout or a new replacement vehicle - whatever the policy stipulates - and the wreck is generally sold at auction.
Depending on how crappy the condition, that wreck might be stripped and sold for parts. But if it’s only partly crappy it might end up repaired, inspected, re-registered and re-sold.
Now, because YouTube is global and I live in Australia I can only comment on the repairable write-off legalities down here.
Nothing is intrinsically wrong with repaired write-offs, provided the repairs are done to a professional standard. But I wouldn’t be paying the full freight for one. I’d want a discount for the abuse it’s suffered in the past.
There are scumbags who routinely attempt to pass off these repaired write-offs as run-of-the-mill used cars - at the full market price. So you have to protect yourself from inheriting one of these without the appropriate discount.
In ‘Australia, there are essentially two categories of written-off cars: Repairable write-offs and statutory write-offs. Statutory write-offs are the ones that, by law, must never be repaired. They’re usually badly damaged, and they can only be sold legally for spare parts.
Here in NSW, the state government made it illegal in 2011 to re-register any repaired write-off. Here, they can only be scrapped and sold for parts. That was done in an attempt to reduce re-birthing.
Re-birthing is where you steal a car, you park it somewhere unobtrusive and then you buy a wreck of the same make and model. Then you transfer the wreck’s identity to the stolen car and attempt to sell it as if it’s above-board.
This set of ‘zero tolerance’ write-off repair rules only applies to NSW. Other Australian states still allow you to repair and re-register repairable write-offs. There’s even an official inspection process to get them re-registered and back on the road.
Most people buying a used car in Australia do a REVS check, which reveals financial encumberance. It’s bad to buy a vehicle used as the security over a car loan - because it can be repossessed if the loan isn’t discharged with the sale proceeds. But a REVS check won’t identify repaired write-offs.
In Australia there’s an official Written-off Vehicle Register. And the best way for you to access the data on that register is to drop $37 online and get an official Car History Report. In addition to the financial liability check from REVS, a Car History Report will also give you the vehicle’s full insurance claim history, it’ll tell you if it’s ever been stolen or written off, you’ll also get a valuation and the registration details. It could just be the best $37 insurance policy of all time.
To get a Car History Report, you’ll need the vehicle’s VIN code - a 17-digit alpha-numeric code (effectively a serial number) located on an official plate in the engine bay or inside the door frame.
The other thing you really should do, no matter where you live on Earth, is get your own trusted, independent mechanic to inspect the car - not only for its mechanical health, but also for evidence of major repair work. Especially dodgy crash repair - which is easy to spot if you know what to look for.
If you buy a repaired write-off, you need to tell your insurance company that’s what it is. It’s part of your duty of disclosure to tell the insurer anything that materially affects their decision to insure you. The final thing you need to do is clarify the vehicle’s warranty status with the manufacturer. This is especially important for reasonably new cars, like the 2014 Rio that Stephen’s sniffing around, which sparked this report - don’t just presume the balance of the factory warranty protects you because you might find that the factory warranty is voided.