Queensland to update written-off vehicle laws

New rules to improve consumer protection standards.

Used-car buyers will get increased protection with the introduction of new laws for written-off vehicles.

The Government will introduce changes to the written-off vehicle scheme from next year which will bring Queensland into line with other states.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the changes would improve safety and increase consumer protection for Queenslanders buying second-hand vehicles.
"Preventing substandard repairs and re-birthed vehicles from being on our roads protects the safety of everyone," Mr Bailey said.
"These reforms will help ensure any written-off vehicle that is eligible for re-registration is repaired to the appropriate standard before being allowed back on the road."
The scheme was originally introduced as part of a national initiative to ensure written-off vehicles which were re-registered for sale did not contain stolen parts.

It aimed to reduce vehicle theft and eliminate unsafe vehicles by checking that repairable written-off vehicles did not contain stolen parts. The scheme also ensured badly damaged vehicles were kept off the road.

Mr Bailey said under the changes, all light and heavy vehicles would be classified against nationally agreed damage assessment criteria.
“These changes focus on improving processes and standards for written-off vehicle inspections for light and heavy vehicles and will bring us more into line with other states," he said.
“Once classified, the quality of the vehicle repairs and identity requirements for written-off vehicles will be more stringent and comprehensive than the current system.
“Light vehicles, which are considered uneconomical to repair, will be categorised as statutory written-off vehicles and become ineligible for re-registration.
“Vehicles will then only be permitted to be repaired where they meet specific exemption criteria.
"We will also introduce a Written-Off Vehicle Register for heavy vehicles and implement inspection requirements, consistent with transport agencies around Australia.”

RACQ Road Safety and Technical Manager Joel Tucker said changes to the scheme was welcome but long overdue.  

He said the scheme was a substantial barrier to the re-birthing of stolen vehicles and had also significantly reduced the number of poorly repaired vehicles on Queensland roads by preventing re-registration of the most severely damaged vehicles.

“However, we’ve always been concerned that Queensland’s written-off vehicle inspection approach largely failed to address the fundamental issue of repair quality for repairable write-offs,” Mr Tucker said. 

He said there were numerous reported and anecdotal accounts of: 

  • Shortcut repair methods; 
  • Incomplete, inappropriate, or generally unsatisfactory repairs;  
  • Vehicles being reassembled without their full complement of air bags; 
  • Potentially faulty or dangerous parts such as second-hand safety components being used;

Vehicles being rebuilt by people with limited skill and without the appropriate knowledge and equipment.

“This is clearly a significant consumer issue as these repaired vehicles eventually found their way onto the used-car market and were purchased by unsuspecting buyers,” Mr Tucker said.
He said RACQ was pleased that the changes would significantly reduce the number of repairable write-offs that make it back onto our roads.  

He said RACQ would like the new laws to include a requirement for sellers of written-off vehicles to inform prospective buyers of the vehicle’s written-off history.

Used-vehicle buyers should do a search on the Australian Government’s Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) before purchasing.

This will show if the vehicle has money owing on it or has been reported as written-off or stolen.

The $2 motor vehicle search should be completed the day before or on the day of purchase.

What is a written-off vehicle?

Written-off vehicles are classified as either statutory or repairable write-offs after being assessed as total losses. 

A vehicle is deemed a total loss if the assessor – usually an insurance company – considers the cost of repairs to be greater than its market value.

A statutory write-off is a vehicle that has been assessed as a total loss with damage too severe to be repaired and returned to the road.

A repairable write-off is a vehicle that’s been assessed as a total loss but doesn’t meet the criteria for a statutory write-off.

It can be repaired and re-registered after it has been repaired and passed Queensland Safety Certificate and written-off vehicle inspections.

Vehicle in both classifications are recorded on the Written-Off Vehicle Register. 

A vehicle on the Written-Off Vehicle Register usually has a reduced value and remains on the register for the rest of its life, even if it’s repaired or ownership is transferred.