Buying a repairable write off

If a used car deal seems too good to be true you should make sure you are not buying a repaired write-off, writes John Cadogan from AutoExpert.

A repaired write off is, as the name suggests, a vehicle deemed by an insurer to be uneconomical to repair. This could occur following a crash, or some other event like a flood. An insurance payout is given to the owner, and the ‘write off’ is generally sold at auction. In some cases it is sold to a wrecker, who disassembles the wreck and sells the parts. In other cases the vehicle is sold, repaired, inspected, re-registered and re-sold – possibly to you.

Nothing is intrinsically wrong with repaired write-offs, subject to appropriate repairs being completed professionally. However, these vehicles are perceived not to be worth as much as a conventional used vehicle.

Problems occur when an unscrupulous seller attempts to pass off the repaired write-off as a conventional used car – sometimes at the full market price.

There are two types of written-off cars: Repairable write-offs and statutory (or unrepairable) write-offs. Statutory write-offs must not be repaired, and can only be sold for parts. (Another unscrupulous practice is attempting to repair and sell a statutory write-off.)

In NSW only, the state government made it illegal in 2011 to re-register any repaired write-off. This was done in an attempt to clamp down on vehicle ‘re-birthing’. Effectively this means that repaired and re-registered write-offs from other states cannot be transferred to a NSW registration – an important consideration if you might be transferred to NSW for work, for example.

A conventional REVS check, which will tell you about financial encumberance of a vehicle you are considering buying, is not sufficient to identify repaired write-offs. Every repairable write-off is logged onto an official Written-off Vehicle Register and the best way to tell if any vehicle you are considering purchasing is a repaired write-off is to purchase a $37 Car History Report from

To complete a Car History Report, you’ll need the vehicle’s VIN code – a 17-digit alpha-numeric code (effectively a serial number) located on an official plate in the engine bay or inside the door frame. You should also check that the code on this plate matches exactly the code on the rego papers exactly.

If you elect to purchase a repaired write-off, you need to be aware that it cannot be registered in NSW, and you should also clarify its ability to qualify for insurance cover by discussing its status with your insurer. You should also discuss its warranty status with the manufacturer – you may find that the warranty is voided upon being written off. This last point is important for late-model used cars.

About the Author:

John Cadogan is an Australian automotive journalist employed as editor in chief by He frequently presents news for some of Australia’s top companies such as Channel 7’s Today Tonight and 2UE radio. John can be contacted via twitter or via the contact page here.

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