Buying a used car? Do your checks before you write one

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Buying a second-hand car can be a smart way to save money, but it’s important to be aware of the hidden risks that can come with used vehicles.

Most people assume a vehicle's odometer is a reliable measure of how far it has travelled, but this may not always be the case. Misrepresenting the number of kilometres a vehicle has travelled to attract a higher price is a calculated deception that takes advantage of an unsuspecting buyer and is a serious breach of consumer law.

If an odometer doesn’t reflect the number of kilometres a vehicle has actually travelled, the necessary checks, services and repairs may not be carried out at the required times, potentially leaving unsuspecting consumers exposed to mechanical and safety issues.

There are now many methods to establish the true odometer reading of a vehicle, so those who engage in this type of sham will quickly be caught out.

In the past year, one of the worst cases of odometer tampering in Western Australia saw a Maddington motor vehicle dealer and repairer fined $30,000 and banned for two years from holding a dealer’s licence or repair business licence, or managing a company that holds either licence, after he was found guilty of selling four vehicles with wound-back odometers.

Before buying a second-hand car, consider undertaking checks to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

You can have the vehicle inspected by a professional. They may be able to uncover inconsistencies between the condition of the vehicle and the odometer reading. For example, if the interior is worn, but the mileage is low, it could indicate tampering.

Check the car’s log book history for records of odometer readings to ensure they are correct and consistent. You can also contact the dealer/repairer and ask them to check their records.

A government Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check can tell you whether a car has been stolen, has money owing on it or has ever been declared a repairable write-off, but it doesn’t include an odometer reading check.

Never deal with people known to be unlicensed motor vehicle dealers. You can check whether a car dealer is licensed by doing a search on the Consumer Protection website:

Illegal operators should be dobbed in to Consumer Protection so we can put a stop to their activities. Unlicensed car dealers can be reported by emailing or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

Motor vehicle buyers who believe they have been misled can lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media


Consumer Protection
Media release
07 Feb 2019

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