Commissioner's Blog: Beware backyard car dealers

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There’s a lot to weigh-up when buying a car, such as the make/model and how much you want to spend, but one important thing to investigate is who you’re actually doing business with.

We’re warning consumers to be wary of backyard operators who buy and sell multiple vehicles as a profit-making business, as they may rob unsuspecting consumers of their rights to a warranty and other remedies should something go wrong with the vehicles after purchase. 

In recent weeks, we have successfully prosecuted three unlicensed motor vehicle dealers who sold 172 vehicles between them and collectively received almost $52,000 in court fines. One of those individuals was also convicted of winding back the odometers on two vehicles by a total of 366,700 kilometres.

One complainant contacted us after the car he’d purchased had broken down and had finance still owing on it from a previous owner. Another consumer who paid $2,000 for a vehicle through the same unlicensed dealer had to spend a further $4,500 to make it roadworthy.

These illegal traders generally do not repair any faults in the vehicle once sold, creating safety concerns.

Depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle, consumers who buy a vehicle through a licensed dealer may have a right to a warranty under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act or a guarantee under the Australian Consumer Law. However, there are no such protections available when buying privately or from an unlicensed dealer.

You can protect yourself by doing some simple checks. Before buying a car, check that the seller is licensed by asking to see their Motor Vehicle Dealer’s licence (MDL). If you are unsure whether the person you are buying from is licensed, visit Consumer Protection’s licence and registration search.

Also search the Personal Property Securities Register at to ensure the vehicle hasn’t been written off, is unregistered or has money owing on it.

Help protect yourself and others on the road by reporting unlicensed dealers to Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or

Gary Newcombe city 2
Gary Newcombe city 2, by CP Media

Gary Newcombe

Commissioner for Consumer Protection


Consumer Protection
Media release
17 Jun 2022

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