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Buying a Car in Western Australia

Many legal disputes arise over the purchase of a vehicle. When buying a car in WA, it is important to know the differences in your rights and responsibilities when purchasing from a private seller compared to a dealership. The old saying ‘buyer beware’ is the mantra for all people buying second hand cars from a private seller.

There is little protection when buying a car in WA privately, and you should make sure you know what you are buying. On the other hand vehicles purchased through a dealership do have some level of protection by consumer guarantees and warranties, though you need to be aware of the contract that you are signing.

There are many things you should consider before you purchase a vehicle. These include: the condition of the car to make sure you are not buying a lemon, are there any warranties, is it subject to finance, is there car already under finance and being used as security, and the cost of the vehicle licence duty.

Buying a car with finance

Buying a car from a private seller

If you are going to purchase a second hand vehicle from a private seller, you need to remember that the vehicle will not have a Statutory Warranty, and the Consumer Laws will offer you no protection if you buy a lemon. It is recommended that you take the vehicle to a mechanic, and have them check the vehicle for defects. You also need to ensure that the identification number on the engine matches the one stated on the licence registration papers.

If the vehicle is only a few years old then it may still be under new car warranty, which will carry over to you. If this is the case, it is important to make sure the warranty is still valid, and that it is transferred over to you.

You should also carry out a search of the Personal Property Securities Registrar to make sure the vehicle is not stolen, nor under finance. If the vehicle is under finance it may be repossessed by the finance company if the seller fails to pay out the loan.

It is also essential that you make sure that the person selling you the vehicle is in fact, the registered owner. Take a copy of their drivers licence to ensure it matches the details on the vehicles registration.

Buying a car from a dealership

There is no cooling off period when buying a car in WA through a dealership. Make sure you are committed before signing; otherwise you may incur a penalty of around 15% of the purchase price. The amount can differ between dealerships, so make sure you read the fine print before signing.

Be wary of signing any documents so they can ‘hold’ the vehicle for you, as this may in fact be the purchase contract. If you sign a contract subject to finance then you can terminate if the finance falls through, but you do have to show you have made reasonable attempts to obtain the finance.

Purchasing a vehicle from a dealership does give you extra protection under the Australian Consumer Laws. This gives you the right to ask for repair, replacement or refund if your car is faulty, or unsafe. You will also have rights if the car is not fit for its intended purchase, or does not match the description advertised. The Australian Consumer Laws are governed by the Competition and Consumer Act (Cth) 2010 which replaced the Trades Practices Act (Cth) 1974.

If the purchase price of the vehicle is more than $4000, and is not more than 12 years old, nor has it travelled more than 180,000 kms, you will also receive a statutory warranty issued under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act 1973. The length of the warranty will depend on the age of the vehicle of the kilometres it has travelled.

Buying a car under finance

When buying a car in WA with finance, it is important to remember that the vehicle is the security for the loan. As soon as you miss a payment you will be in default on your loan contract, and your vehicle will be at risk.

There are procedures that the finance company needs to follow which are outlined in the National Credit Code, and this will allow you the opportunity to get the loan up to date. If this occurs you will receive a default notice, and 30 days to rectify the situation.

If you fail to get your loan up to date the finance company can reposes your vehicle, and sell it. If the proceeds of the sale are not sufficient to cover the cost of the loan then the financier may commence proceedings against you to recover the shortfall.

Your car can be repossessed without your knowledge if it is parked on the road, but if parked on a residential property, they need written permission from the owner of the property, or a court order. If your car is reposed you will still have 21 days to get your car back, if you can pay the loan arrears and enforcement expenses.

Transferring Ownership of the Vehicle

When you purchase a vehicle, you and the seller need to complete a Notification of Change of Ownership form and provide it to the Department of Transport. The seller has 7 days to deliver their copy, and the buyer has 14 days. Failing to do so may result in a penalty.

After the form is submitted the buyer will received an invoice outlining the licence duty, and transfer fees, which require payment within 28 days. If you fail to pay these fees then you may be issued with an infringement notice.

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