Motor vehicles like cars, motorbikes, trucks and vans help keep NSW moving. We protect your consumer rights when you are buying goods (eg cars and accessories) and services (eg repairs, towing and private parking) in NSW.
This page explains:
- your consumer rights
- vehicle towing
- private car parks
- advice to get get a problem solved
- advice to be a savvy consumer
when it comes to car rental, repair, towing and other vehicle-related products and services, as well as what to do if you have a problem.
To register your vehicle, pay a toll, get a licence and learn more, head to the Roads & Maritime Services website.
Your consumer rights
Australian Consumer Law guarantees your rights when you buy goods and services.
In fact, most products and services purchased after 1 January 2011 come with an automatic consumer guarantee that the product or service you purchased will work and do what you asked for. This includes vehicle related products and services.
When you engage a business to provide a service, you have the right to expect ‘acceptable quality’. Services must be:
- provided with due care or skill (taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage)
- fit for any specified purpose (express or implied)
- provided in a reasonable time (when no time is set).
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the nature of the service, the difficulty of the task and other relevant factors.
Proof of purchase and documentation
You have the right to receive proof of purchase (like an invoice, cash register receipt, handwritten receipt or lay-by agreement). Suppliers must provide proof of purchase for goods and services worth $75 or more (excluding GST).
Legal and conveyancing services in Australia are usually supplied under a contract. A written copy of the contract (including its terms and conditions) must be supplied to you. Keep this for your records and in case you need to refer to the contract terms during a dispute.
Australian Consumer Law allows consumers to claim compensation (reimbursement) when a service does not meet a guarantee. You may be able to claim compensation for your costs (time and money) if something goes wrong with the service. For more information, refer to our contracts page.
Advertising can be a powerful means of persuasion, so it’s important it is truthful, accurate and easy to understand. Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from deceptive advertising claims and conduct.
Businesses are not allowed to make false or misleading representations about their products or services. This includes advertising for vehicle-related products and services.
Learn more about advertising standards.
Remedy when things go wrong
You are entitled to an appropriate remedy from the business when the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
This might be a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some cases, reimbursement for damages and consequential loss.
The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is:
If the problem is minor and can be fixed, the business or provider can choose how to fix the problem. You cannot cancel the service/return the product and demand a refund immediately. You must give the business an opportunity to fix the problem.
However, if the remedy (service, repair or replacement) takes too long, you can get someone else to fix the problem and ask the business or provider to pay reasonable costs or cancel the service/return the product and get a refund.
If the problem is major or cannot be fixed, you can choose to:
- terminate the contract for services and request a full refund
- seek reimbursement for the difference between the value of the services provided compared to the price paid.
For more information, see repairs, replacements & refunds.
You may need the services of a tow truck driver if your vehicle breaks down or is in an accident.
You also have the right to:
- refuse to accept a tow for any reason (eg if the tow truck is not suitable)
- receive a copy of the towing authorisation form from the driver who will be towing your vehicle
- receive a quotation for the cost of the towing work.
Tow-away only crashes
Motorists involved in tow-away only collisions can organise their own tow and leave the area if:
- no one is injured
- all parties have exchanged particulars, and
- no one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As the owner/driver of the towed vehicle it is your responsibility to report the accident to NSW Police immediately by calling the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
If you had a minor collision and your car does not require tow-away, you don’t need to report it to the Police, even for insurance purposes. Visit the NSW Police website for more information.
Tow truck charges
This information is for consumers. If you are an operator or want to be one, see this tow trucks information.
The Tow Truck Industry Regulation 2008 sets the maximum fees chargeable for light and heavy vehicle towing.
Download a PDF copy of the fees:
Private car parks
When you enter a private car park (for example, at a shopping centre), you are agreeing to the terms and conditions displayed at the entrance of the car park and entering a contract.
Roads & Martime Services will send you a letter advising that your name and address details will be released to the car park operator. It is likely this letter will be followed by a payment notice from the car park operator.
While these payment notices are not parking fines (parking fines and infringement notices are issued by a government body), you are still obliged to pay the notice as you breached the contract terms.
If you don’t pay the payment notice, car park operators may decide to hire a debt collection agency to recover the amount owing or take the matter to court and will have to show evidence to back their claim. These steps may be additional costs to you.
Fair Trading can help if you wish to dispute a payment notice with the car park operator – you might dispute the notice if you believe it was unfair or incorrectly sent to you. We recommend seeking independent legal advice before taking this action.
You can also lodge an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). If you lodge this application before the car park operator issues a notice of intention to sue, you can prevent it from being heard before any civil court. If you are unsure what to do, you should consider getting legal advice.
For more information on private car park payment notices and what you can do, visit the Legal Aid website.
If you have concerns about your privacy, you should contact the Information and Privacy Commission NSW.
Have a problem?
- Contact the business in the first instance and explain the problem. If the matter is complicated and not urgent, you could write an email or letter. We have tips and sample letters to help you.
- If you’re unable to resolve the matter with the business, you can contact us for help on 13 32 20 or make a complaint online.
Be a savvy consumer
To keep your car in roadworthy condition, it might be necessary to have maintenance and repairs done. Repairers must be licensed, and any work should be done with skill and care. Before you decide on a repairer:
- check they are licensed
- get a quote in writing
- ask to be contacted if additional work needs to be done
- request an itemised account.
See the repairs and maintenance page for more information.
Before renting/hiring a vehicle, you should take the time to read the terms of your hire contract , check the vehicle is in good working order, make sure you understand the road rules and know what to do if there is an accident. Here are some tips to help you.
All vehicles on NSW roads must have compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance. Your hire vehicle may have additional comprehensive insurance, either included in the rental cost or as a separate fee. You should find out what the insurance covers if you have an accident and whether you can purchase your own insurance for the car somewhere cheaper (outside the rental company).
Off-road and snow use
Many contracts prohibit hirers from taking the vehicle off-road or above the snow-line. You may be responsible for any damage that occurs as a result. If you want to get off the beaten track, make sure your contract allows you to do so.
Rental cars must be road-worthy, so make sure you take the time to check the vehicle before you drive away. Check the tyres, lights, indicators, brakes, windscreen and wipers. Are there any visible oil leaks, water leaks in the cabin, or damage that should be noted on the documentation? Is there a spare tyre, jack and wheel brace?
Safety and accidents
If you have an accident and someone is injured, seek medical assistance. Advise the car rental company as soon as you can, as well as the police if the accident is not very minor.
Where the accident is your fault and you didn’t purchase comprehensive insurance, you may be liable for damages. Photograph or video the damage in case there is dispute about the cost.
You are responsible for a parking or traffic infringement. If you get a parking infringement, you should notify the car rental firm and make arrangements for payment.
Breakdowns and repairs
Ask the business if you can get a replacement vehicle quickly if you breakdown. Is there a convenient way of arranging for minor repairs while on the road? And if you have to pay the cost of repairs, how do you get your money back? You should not have to pay for items that are ‘fair wear and tear’. But you may be responsible if problems develop as a result of your negligence, misuse or abuse.
Returning the vehicle
How can you return the vehicle? Is there a specific time and location you must return it, and do you have to fill the fuel tank before dropping the car off? The car hire company may charge you additional fees if you don’t adhere to the return agreement so make sure you are aware of all the requirements before you drive away.
Follow these tips when arranging a tow truck for your vehicle:
- Check the tow truck driver is accredited. Accredited tow truck drivers must wear a tow truck driver’s certificate whenever they are driving or operating a tow truck. The driver's certificate will show their name, photo, certificate number and class, and expiry date.
- Check the tow truck number plate. Only tow trucks with four numbers followed by TT (for example, ‘1234 – TT’) are authorised to tow your vehicle from the scene of an accident. Tow trucks with three numbers followed by TT (for example ‘123 – TT’) are not authorised to do so.
- An interstate tow truck authorised to carry out towing work in NSW will have a registration plate issued in their home state, along with two NSW Fair Trading interstate tow truck signs in the windows of the truck.
- Complete the towing authorisation form and get a copy. Make sure all details are completed and correct (including the location) and that you and the tow truck driver both sign the form. The driver should provide you with a copy.
Can’t find the information you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.