We want to make it easy for you to do the right checks on a used car no matter what State or Province or Territory you live in, or where the car you want to buy is located.
Have a look through our Used Car Buying Tips and Frequently Asked Questions below for advice on what to do when buying a used car.
Used Car Buying Tips
When buying a used car, you should:
- Inform the seller you intend to do an lien check (DMV Auto Report) and a detailed vehicle history report on the car.
- Obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and enter it into the search box on this site to get the vehicle’s complete history. The VIN can be found on the engine, vehicle registration papers, or on the inside of most car doors.
- Make sure the VIN, engine number and registration details on the car match those on the registration papers.
- Get an independent mechanical inspection.
- On the day you take ownership of the vehicle, purchase a lien check to verify there are no loans on he vehicle.
Why do I need the VIN?
The Vehicle Identification Number, commonly abbreviated to VIN, is the unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual cars. Each car has a unique VIN that is 17 characters long, and it is the VIN that is used to search against various State and Province / Territory government and industry databases to determine specific information such as if the car has been written-off accidented or stolen etc.
Where do I find the VIN?
The vehicle registration number can be found on the the registration sticker, the vehicle itself, or on the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed). The vehicle's VIN is also displayed on the registration certificate and insurance policy documentation.
Why do I need to do a DMV Auto Report?
If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller who has an outstanding loan attached to the vehicle (this is called an encumbrance), the vehicle could be repossessed and you could lose your money.
You can check the the vehicle history report by entering your VIN - on this website to determine if the vehicle is encumbered. In addition to doing a DMV Auto Report, we also recommend buying a history report that includes information about whether the car has been written-off, stolen, flood damaged or whether the odometer has been rolled back.
Doing a DMV Auto Report is the simplest way to prevent repossession by a financier if someone else still owes money on the vehicle. If the vehicle is encumbered, you should not purchase it until you are satisfied with the arrangements made by the current owner to repay the debt.
You need to be sure that the registration, engine and Vehicle Identification (VIN/Chassis) numbers on the registration papers are identical to those on the vehicle.
What if the VIN isn't 17 characters long?
if the VIN is not 17 characters long, please double check that you have the right VIN and that you have copied it down correctly. If the VIN is still less than 17 characters long, the VIN is most likely from a pre-1989 vehicle.
Can I get a DMV Auto Report on vehicles manufactured before 1989?
Prior to 1989 VIN numbers varied between 11 and 17 characters. DMV Auto Report can only report on vehicles with a 17 character VIN. Therefore information on vehicles manufactured before 1989 is limited.
What is a written-off vehicle?
Those vehicles which have been in an accident, or suffered some form of impact, water, fire or malicious damage. Written-off vehicles are classified as either a statutory (unable to be re-registered) or repairable write-off (able to be re-registered in some States once repaired and passes written-off vehicle and safety certificate inspections).
Written off vehicles can be of the following types:
- Dismantled - A statutory write-off that is stripped of interior and exterior body parts, panels and components
- Fire damage - Sections or all of the vehicle has been burnt by fire
- Hail damage - Sections or all of the vehicle has been damaged by hail
- Impact damage - Damage caused, due to violent contact with another object
- Malicious damage - Wilful damage or destruction of a vehicle
- Refer jurisdiction - Contact the registration authority displayed in the 'state of registration'
- Unrecovered theft - A stolen vehicle that has not been recovered. Contact the relevant registration authority
- Water damage - Immersed in fresh or salt water
The vehicle I searched on is reported as stolen, what should I do?
Make sure you do not buy the vehicle until you have made some investigations of your own. We advise you to contact the Police in your State or Province to obtain further detail.
What does encumbrance mean?
An encumbrance relating to a vehicle being searched upon means that the vehicle has outstanding finance, i.e. money is owed on a loan relating to the vehicle. Make sure the finance is cleared and the encumbrance removed, prior to purchasing the vehicle.