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Buying cars 

There are plenty of sharp operators prepared to take private car buyers for a ride. Consumers should be aware that the legal safeguards for people who deal through licensed motor traders don't cover private sales. For private sales, the old saying - buyer beware - still applies.

Taken for a ride

Unlicensed backyard motor dealers - scoundrels who buy clapped out cars, perform a little cosmetic surgery and sell them through the classified sections of newspapers or on the side of the road - continue to operate despite widely publicised prosecutions by NSW Fair Trading over recent years.

The repairs carried out by backyard operators are often slap-dash and sometimes dangerous. But their antics don't stop at shoddy repairs. These shonks have few qualms about winding back the odometers on the cars they offer for sale.

A car with low kilometres is a far more attractive proposition. In one case Fair Trading found a backyard dealer had wound an odometer back 427,000 kilometres - more than the distance to the moon. The ex-taxi was later sold to an unsuspecting buyer for thousands of dollars above its market value.

'Flicking the speedo' is illegal. If found guilty sellers have to pay a hefty fine, compensate the buyer for the inflated value of the car and cover legal costs. In the case of the 427,000 kilometre windback, the fine, compensation and costs amounted to almost $5,000.

Tips: Compare the vehicle's condition with the odometer reading. Check the log book or service sticker. Better still, get a pre-sale inspection. And make sure you contact the PPSR first!

PPSR - A critical first step

Statistically, there is a one in five chance vehicles offered for private sale in NSW will be carrying a debt for which the new owner could become liable.

Before buying a car privately, buyers should contact the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR). PPSR can advise if a motor vehicle, or boat, is carrying a debt, and could be repossessed.



Tel: 1300 007 777
PPSR website:

NSW Fair Trading

NSW Fair Trading Centres across NSW also provide printed information on what to watch out for when buying cars.