Commissioner's Blog: Avoid lemons on car auction websites

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerMotor industry
david_hillyard_sq.jpg, by sroberts


With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Buying a vehicle via online auction has left a WA consumer with a sour taste in her mouth after the car turned out to be a lemon.

The woman, who told her story on TV recently, bid $6,000 because the SUV had only done 135,000km and seemed like a bargain.

But when she drove it away after purchase, it broke down almost immediately and a quote to repair it was $6,000 for a new transmission.

In 2018 Consumer Protection received 20 complaints about cars bought at auction.

Auction websites selling cars are generally agents for private owners. There’s no statutory warranty under the Motor Vehicle Dealer’s Act and consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law, such as acceptable quality and fit for purpose, don’t apply either. This is because it is a private seller selling the vehicle.

Terms and conditions on auction sites usually stipulate that the vehicle is “sold as seen”. In the case of the woman with the $6,000 lemon, the T&Cs went so far as to say their description was a guide based on a walk around inspection and start-up only AND recommended a full inspection to identify any unsighted damage or issues. Consumer Protection recommends taking a mechanic to inspect and we say do NOT buy sight unseen. Once you take the car away, if there’s a mechanical failure you wear the cost of repair.

Although there is no legal requirement for the auction seller to disclose the condition of a vehicle, they cannot make false or misleading representations. For example it’s not OK to say “top condition, no mechanical faults” as part of the sales blurb – in those circumstances if there was a fault, you could have some comeback.

Before you buy a car, research make and model reviews and check the Personal Properties Security Register ( to ensure no money is owing on the vehicle. Head to for more tips.

Because there’s currently no cooling off period on car sales in WA, speak to us about any concerns or uncertainty before clicking to agree to a purchase or putting pen to paper. You can get through to the Automotive branch via our contact centre on 1300 30 40 54.


Consumer Protection
Department News
11 Apr 2019

Share this page:

Last modified: