Owning or buying a written-off vehicle

If you own a vehicle that's been badly damaged or you're buying a secondhand vehicle, here's everything you need to know about written-off vehicles.

How to check if a vehicle has been written off

If you're planning to buy a car, you can check if it's been written off in NSW or interstate by phoning 13 22 13 or visiting a service centre.

This is a free service. All you need is the NSW registration plate number of the vehicle.

For a small fee, you can also get printable vehicle history report online through Service NSW

What is a written-off vehicle

If your light vehicle is assessed as a ‘total loss’ it must be written off. A vehicle is a ‘total loss’ when the cost of the repairs plus its value as a damaged vehicle (its salvage value) is higher than the market value.

Written-off light vehicles cannot be re-registered in NSW, except in limited circumstances.

Buying or selling a written-off vehicle

The vehicle can still be bought and sold, but only used for parts or scrap metal.

This applies to all light vehicles (4.5 tonnes or less), including cars, trailers, caravans and motorcycles, that are up to 15 years old.

Vehicle re-birthing

Vehicle re-birthing is illegal. A vehicle is ‘re-birthed’ when identifiers from a written-off vehicle are used to re-identify a stolen vehicle, or stolen parts are used to repair a written-off vehicle.

Vehicle identifiers are:

  • vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • chassis number
  • engine number
  • compliance plate.

Re-birthed vehicles are often poorly repaired and can be a safety risk.

What happens when a vehicle is written off

When a vehicle is written off, the vehicle is recorded on the NSW Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR) and the registration is cancelled. You’ll be notified of this in writing.

The WOVR improves road safety and reduces the incidence of light vehicle theft, re-birthing and related crime.

The compulsory third party insurance (CTP greenslip) for the vehicle will continue for 4 business days after the registration cancellation date.

Hail-damaged light vehicles

Light vehicles written off due to hail damage that are retained by the registered operator are treated differently to other written-off vehicles.

The registration is not cancelled and no restrictions are placed on the registration. However, the Certificate of Registration will show that the vehicle was previously written off.

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