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Buying a Car (WA)

Buying a car is an important financial decision. There are different ways of purchasing a vehicle, and depending on how you buy your car, you may be entitled to different rights. The Motor Vehicle Dealers Act 1973 (the act) and Australian Consumer Law govern the buying and selling of cars in Western Australia.

Buying a car from a dealer

Buying a car from a dealer can sometimes be more expensive than buying one privately. However, there are advantages to purchasing from a motor dealer. Dealers are required to comply with the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act 1973 and the Australian Consumer Law. They are required to disclose certain information about cars they are selling and guarantee that the vehicle has a clear title, i.e. that there is no money owing on the vehicle.

A manufacturer’s warranty will cover most new vehicles sold at a motor dealer. If purchasing a new vehicle, you should take notice of the terms and conditions of the manufacturer’s warranty relating to your vehicle.

Some used cars sold at a motor vehicle dealer, sold for a purchase price of more than $4,000, will be covered by statutory warranty:

  • A car that is less than ten years old and has travelled less than 150,000 kilometres will have a warranty for three months or the first 5,000 kilometres post-sale (whichever comes first);
  • A car that is between ten and twelve years old that has travelled between 150,000 and 180,000 will have a warranty for one month or 1,500 kilometres (whichever comes first); and
  • A car that is more than twelve years old will not come with a warranty.

If something covered by the warranty breaks during the period of the warranty, the dealer is required to repair it.

When you buy a car from a motor dealer, the contract is covered by the Act. A car sale contract from dealers must be in writing and must contain certain terms and conditions such as those relating to finance, delivery date, changes in the sale price and the rights to end the contract. In Western Australia, a cooling-off period does not apply to motor car sales. So once you have signed the contract and the dealer has advised you that they have received your signed contract you cannot back out of the purchase.

Buying a car from an auctioneer

By attending an auction for motor vehicles, you may be able to get a bargain. However, you will not necessarily have the same rights that you will have if you purchase from a motor dealer, i.e. certain used cars may not come with a warranty. However, if an auctioneer has a motor dealer licence, a car you purchase may be covered by a statutory warranty like the ones listed above. Be sure to check whether the auctioneer has a motor dealer licence before purchasing a car at an auction.

Buying a car from a private seller

When you buy a car from a private seller, you will have little recourse if something goes wrong with the vehicle. This is why when purchasing a vehicle in this way, you must do the best you can to make thorough inquiries about the vehicle. You could arrange for your own mechanic to inspect the car before you purchase it. Depending on the age of the vehicle, a manufacturer’s warranty may still apply. Find out from the seller if this is the case, collect all relevant details about this warranty from them and arrange to have it transferred into your name upon sale.

The Australian Consumer Law requires sellers to guarantee clear title on the vehicle. However, if you find out after purchasing a car from a private seller that money is owing on it, it may be difficult for you to enforce your consumer rights. For this reason, you should carry out a search on the Personal Properties Securities Register in order to make sure there is no money owing on the vehicle and that it is not a stolen vehicle.

Upon sale, you will also need to arrange to have the vehicle license transferred into your name. The Department of Transport is where you can arrange this.

Australian Consumer Law Guarantees

In addition to or apart from a manufacturer’s warranty or a statutory warranty, you may be entitled to a guarantee for a vehicle you purchase according to the Australian Consumer Law. This law implies certain guarantees into contracts of sale for certain products, including motor vehicles. In relation to cars, the consumer guarantees require that cars that are sold are fit for the purpose for which they are sold and are of acceptable quality. Depending on the age of the car, this may be enforceable against the manufacturer or motor dealer. If a vehicle that you purchase proves to be unsafe or unfit for the purpose for which you bought it, the motor dealer or manufacturer will be required to repair it. You may be entitled to a refund or a replacement vehicle if this is not possible.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Kathryn Sampias

This article was written by Kathryn Sampias

Kathryn Sampias has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Kathryn was admitted to practice in 2005 and practised law for more than eight years, working both in private practice (mainly in defence litigation for professional indemnity disputes) and in the public service for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in enforcement.

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