Buying a written-off vehicle

It is important to understand the risks and steps to take when buying a vehicle that has been previously written-off. Discovering the car you’ve just bought was once written-off – and you didn’t know it at the time, could be financially and emotionally shattering. 

If you are considering buying a car, we recommend purchasing FACTS+ to find out if it has been recorded as a Repairable Write-Off. This knowledge will help ensure that you avoid any problems later down the road. Vehicles write-offs fall into two categories: 

 

Statutory Write-Offs 

A Statutory Write-Off means the vehicle is a total loss and is irreparable. In some cases, parts from a statutory write-off may be used to repair another vehicle. For example, if a vehicle has been written-off due to a rear end collision, undamaged parts from the front of the car may be used. 

Statutory Write-Offs include vehicles that have suffered extreme structural damage to the roof, floor pan or firewall. Also included is suspension damage, and major mechanical component failure in the engine or transmission. 

Vehicles immersed in salt water above the doorsill level for any period, or in fresh water up to the dashboard or steering wheel for more than 48 hours, are also deemed Statutory Write-Offs. 

The same applies to fire-damaged vehicles that are totally burnt out or only fit for wrecking or scrap, or stolen vehicles that have been stripped of all or most of their interior and exterior body parts, panels and components. 

Vehicles recorded as Statutory Write-Offs after 1 May 2002 can’t be re-registered and the vehicle identification number (VIN) can’t be re-used. Statutory Write-Off regulations apply across Australia. 

 

Repairable Write-Offs 

A Repairable Write-Off, sometimes known as an economic write-off, is determined by insurance companies who assess that, when the vehicle’s salvage value is added to its repair cost, the market value of the car is exceeded. 

Repairable write-offs are also registered with the National Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR) and the vehicle’s registration is cancelled. 

However, unlike a Statutory Write-off, a Repairable Write-Off can be sold, mostly through damaged-vehicle auctions, or repaired by the owner. In some cases, buying a Repairable Write-Off isn’t as bad as it sounds: The decision to scrap it can be based on the economics of fixing it, not the extent of the damage. For example, a brand new car with minor hail damage could be considered ‘uneconomical’ to fix and therefore declared a Repairable Write-Off. 

Repairable Write-Offs generally fetch a much lower price, so you need to keep this in mind when negotiating the purchase price. 

There are restrictions to fixing and re-registering Repairable Write-Offs and you should check with the authorities in your state or territory. 

 

Further information applicable to your state or territory can be found here: 

NSW Roads and Maritime Services 
VicRoads 
Department of Transport and Main Roads 
Tasmania Transport 
South Australia Transport, Travel and Motoring 
Western Australia Licensing 
Northern Territory Driving 
Access Canberra 

 

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Related articles: 

Do I need a roadworthy certificate to sell my car? 
Should I purchase a CarFacts History Report? 

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