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How to Identify a Stolen Vehicle in Australia?

  • Mar 31, 2018

A recent report by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council showed that in Western Australia, about one car is stolen hourly. This figure is below the national average which currently stands at one car stolen per nine minutes according to the car information site Motoring. That means that each buyer has at least a .7% chance of buying a stolen vehicle in Australia each day. So, as a first time or even experienced buyer of used cars, how can you detect stolen vehicles in an auction or dealership? What steps can you take to prevent yourself from buying one? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Get a PPSR Check

Car thieves do not discriminate between cars with and those without security interest. When you run a PPSR check, you can check the details of the car’s financial owing, as well as verify ownership of the vehicle (the PPSR check will list the seller as the debtor owing interest under the PPSR registration section). A car with a name different from the seller’s as the owner of the debt is more likely to be stolen than not.

Also, a PPSR check, like a car history check, has a section that delineates the stolen status of a car. A stolen vehicle in Australia will be listed as stolen in this section. However, a car with a clean title will not show up on the list. If you want to protect yourself from the legal implications of buying a stolen vehicle in Australia, do your due diligence. Verify whether the car you are purchasing has another rightful owner by conducting a PPSR check.

Getting a PPSR check is easy when using Quick PPSR. All you have to do is log onto the main page and input the VIN of the car you are buying. After paying a small fee, your PPSR check results will be sent to you via email. You could, alternatively, opt to view the report and download it directly to your computer, along with the complementary government-generated PPSR Certificate.

Conduct a Car History Check

A PPSR Check will only show you the financial details of a car; a car history check will help you validate the ownership of a vehicle. Car history checks include details such as the VIN and license plate details of a car, its financial owing and registration information, details of when it was bought, as well as its written-off and stolen statuses. This inquiry is a more direct way of detecting stolen vehicles than a PPSR search.

After getting the report of a car’s history, look at its stolen status. If a vehicle is stolen and its owners have reported it missing, the car will be listed as such. If it is not, the car history report will show no results under the search.

Additionally, a car history will have details of the owners of the vehicle. A car owned by its seller will, therefore, list that individual as the owner of the car under the registration section. Remember, registration details under a PPSR check report and those in a car history check  differ. The registration section under a PPSR check show the details of the car as registered on the Personal Property Securities Register. Those on a car history report detail the actual registration details of the car as listed on NEVDIS, which means it will include details such as who the car is registered to, the vehicles’ registration number (in this the car’s number plate, not VIN) as well as its specifications.

By crosschecking the registration details of the car with the ownership papers supplied by the seller, you can easily identify a car which has been stolen, though this is not guaranteed. Savvy sellers could always forge the papers, though this is not a likely scenario.

Check the Fine Details

Sometimes, stolen vehicles are not easy to identify as they have the correct VIN numbers. In these cases, you can ascertain ownership of the vehicle by looking at its parts. The engine number is usually a buyer’s best bet when it comes to checking vehicles for stolen parts.

You can get the engine number from the NEDVIS-drawn section of a PPSR check or from a regular car history check. If the engine number listed on the reports differs from the one on the car, then it is likely that the car has a stolen engine, which is common to stolen vehicles.

When you meet a seller to inspect your car before purchase, always ensure that you check the car against the stolen vehicles list. Keep in mind the statistics listed by the government about theft in Australia. Even when the seller guarantees the ownership of the car, do your due diligence.

What to do if you discover a Stolen Vehicle in Australia

In case you encounter the unfortunate instance where you discover a stolen vehicle in Australia using a car history report or PPSR check, the next step should be to notify the authorities of the situation.

Note that this also applies to when you find yourself having unknowingly bought a stolen car. Under these circumstances, you will not be charged with owning the car if you did not know it was stolen. You will, however, lose it. The police will repossess the vehicle and return it to its owner or to the owner’s insurance company. Insurers more often than not resell the cars to get back the claim paid out to the previous owner. Alternatively, ownership of the car will revert to the financier of the previous owner if there was a money owing and declared interest in the vehicle during the period when the theft occurred.

Knowing how to detect a stolen vehicle in Australia is essential to prospective buyers because it prevents them from facing legal and financial repercussions upon discovery of the car’s stolen status. The next time you buy a used car in the country, take precautions to shield you from purchasing one of the stolen vehicles taken hourly from their owners.

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