Pre-purchase Checks

John Avis by | September 10, 2007 | Used Cars

There are many Internet resources where you can find out a little history about a used car before you buy it. Some of them are free and you should always do at least the free checks.

For NSW Revs will tell you if a vehicle has outstanding finance, if the vehicle has been written off, and if the vehicle is under investigation by the police.

You will need the VIN number and registration number to do a search and preferably the engine number too (you can enter a random number in place of the engine number and still do a check but it will warn you that the engine number isn't correct).

There are two types of write-offs: statutory write-off means that the vehicle cannot be re-registered; and repairable write-off means that the vehicle can be repaired and re-registered after inspection. If the vehicle was a repairable write-off and has been repaired it will still show on Revs as a repairable write-off. However, the rules were changed and if the car was re-registered prior to 1 July 2003 then Revs will not show it as a repairable write-off.

From my experience the RTA will not provide any further information should you call them and ask about a vehicle.

For a small fee you can purchase insurance which will protect you against the car being repossessed by a finance organisation in the future.

There are similar services in other states but many you have to pay for. WA offers a free check.

CheckItOut ( and Autocheck ( are commercial services that both offer a free basic check which will tell you the make, model and colour. You can pay a fee to get further comprehensive information.

The government department in NSW, the RTA, offers a free vehicle check (go to myRTA, then go to myRecords and select vehicle details enquiry) that will tell you if the car is registered and when it expires, the number of owners in the last 12 months, who the CTP insurer is, written-off and stolen vehicle status, and the last four digits of the engine number. Other states may offer similar services.

Other checks you can do include ringing the manufacturer who might be able to tell you what dealer originally sold the car and what options were factory fitted. You may then be able to get some service history from the original selling dealer. For some makes you may find an on-line parts sales service where you can enter a VIN number and get some details about the car. For example, for BMW there is where you can enter the last seven digits of the VIN number and find out the exact model and production date.

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A blog about buying, owning, driving and selling used cars and motorcycles.


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