Obtaining a car history check

A full car history check identifies information on a used car including if:

  • Another party holds a financial interest in it (i.e. there is money owing on it or if it is leased).
  • It is listed as stolen.
  • It has been written off.
  • There is a discrepancy in the odometer reading.

Dealer sales

If you are buying a used car from a dealer, they are required to guarantee clear title which offers you financial protection in the event of an ownership or financial interest dispute. However, in most cases the dealer is under no obligation to inform you of other significant factors that may affect the vehicle.

Private sales

If you are buying privately, we strongly recommend you obtain a car history check.
You will need to provide the vehicle’s registration number or Identity Number (VIN) or chassis number, and odometer reading. It’s important that you provide the correct vehicle details as any error in the numbers will make the search invalid and the certificate will then offer you no protection. 

You should obtain the certificate on the day you purchase the vehicle but before the transaction is completed.

Keep your certificate in a safe place as it is your proof that the vehicle was free of encumbrances when you bought it

What if the check reveals a problem?

If the check identifies an issue, do not proceed with the sale until it is resolved to your satisfaction.

If the vehicle is leased or has money owing on it, the financial institution involved can take steps to have the vehicle repossessed from you.

While the seller may promise to use the money from the sale to remove the financial interest, it would be risky to take their word that they will, so we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice about the best course of action to take to protect your purchase.

The check will also provide information about the vehicle such as paint colour, build date and identifying numbers that should be checked against the vehicle. Be very wary if the certificate details do not match the vehicle in every respect as this could indicate that the vehicle is stolen. Police can seize a stolen vehicle even years after the event and you will receive no compensation.

A flag showing a vehicle was a repairable write off will stay with the car for its whole life and could complicate future resale. It could also be an indicator of poor-quality repairs and potential ongoing issues.

While you're here

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.