Cook Government driving change to protect used car buyers in WA

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerMotor industry
  • New checklist for used car buyers to protect consumers from buying a lemon
  • Legislative changes will require WA car dealers to disclose repairable write-off status  
  • Changes protect used car buyers from repairable write-offs when buying from a dealer
  • In the past three years 259 people reported being scammed while buying a car online

The Cook Government is driving change to make West Australian roads safer by protecting used car buyers from a purchase they will later regret.

Drafting of amendments to the Motor Vehicle Dealers (Sales) Regulations 1974 (WA) has been approved and is already underway.

The legislative changes will require motor vehicle dealers in Western Australia to disclose to prospective buyers if a vehicle under 15 years old is a repairable write-off (RWO).

RWO means the car has sustained damage which has been repaired but will need to pass a roadworthiness check before it can be returned to the road.

A RWO is not a good or safe investment, especially for families, and may have very little resale value once the RWO status is known. It can also mean potential safety concerns further down the road.

There is currently no legal obligation for a dealer to proactively disclose the history of a car, including if it is an RWO. When the new regulations are in place, a penalty of $2,000 will apply for failure to comply and any false or misleading statement or representation on the sale form displayed on the car will attract a fine of $5,000.

Complaints to Consumer Protection from buyers who had unknowingly purchased used cars declared as RWOs have increased by 40 per cent this year compared to last.

Making it illegal for dealers to not disclose this information will go a long way in helping consumers buy cars that are safe and fit for purpose. It will also reduce the number of RWOs being sold to unsuspecting buyers and help build trust between consumers and dealers through added transparency.

To further protect people shopping around for a used car, both through a dealer or via a private seller, Consumer Protection has released an easy-to-follow used car buyer's checklist in partnership with the Motor Trade Association of WA, to help ensure buyers aren't taken for a ride when purchasing a second-hand car.

At the top of the checklist is a $2 Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR) check which will show if the car is free from debt, stolen or written-off.

Vehicles purchased privately often do not have the same consumer protections as those purchased from a dealer.

In WA, 70 per cent of used car buyers buy via private sale, so it is vital for buyers to be vigilant when shopping online and not hand over their cash before seeing the vehicle in person and doing a series of checks.

In the past three years, Consumer Protection received 259 reports from consumers who were scammed while trying to buy a car online, including 88 who lost over $660,000.

The used car buyer's checklist empowers buyers to know what to look out for when shopping around for a used car and gives them the best chance at driving away with a safe and reliable vehicle.

The checklist and more information on buying a used car can be found on the Consumer Protection Cars, boats and motorbikes website page.

Comments attributed to Commerce Minister Sue Ellery:

"We suspect there are many buyers who have unfortunately purchased a repairable write-off from a dealer or private seller without knowing, because the seller chose not to disclose this important information.

"These new regulations and the release of the used car buyer's checklist will bring some peace of mind to buyers in Western Australia who are looking for a used car that is safe, roadworthy and reliable.

"Prospective used car buyers are strongly encouraged to do a $2 PPSR check using the VIN number found in the owner's manual before purchasing a used car to avoid buying a repairable write-off, a vehicle that is stolen, or that has finance owing.  

"The Cook Government is driving change to ensure no one drives away with a lemon. The easy-to-follow used car buyer's checklist will help ensure buyers aren't taken for a ride when purchasing a second-hand car."

Consumer Protection
Media release
04 Aug 2023

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