While the vast majority of cars and separated parts advertised for sale in the used market belong to genuine sellers, almost 10,000 of the 43,000 cars stolen in Australia in the past year were never recovered.  Many of these stolen cars are re-identified and sold to unsuspecting buyers or their parts are used to repair damaged cars that are then on-sold. 

Unknowingly buying a stolen car not only provides profit to organised crime groups, but also puts the buyer at risk of having their car seized by police with little chance of recovering their purchase price.  

The surest way of reducing your risk is to purchase your car from a licenced motor car trader who must guarantee good title to the car and is required to refund your purchase price if it is later found to be stolen.  However, many thousands of buyers prefer to buy from private sellers as they search for their ideal car for the best price.  

The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, is very fitting when buying a used car in the second-hand market. Many buyers who have been caught up in the nightmare of having bought a stolen car will say that in hindsight there were many “red flags” that should have warned them that the deal was indeed too good to be true. While one or more of the following doesn’t necessarily mean the car is stolen, being aware of some these common tell-tale 'red flags' in advance will hopefully help you reduce your risk of buying a stolen car.  


  • Is the deal commercially realistic? 
  • Is the advertised price similar to other advertised cars of the same make, model and age or is the price well under comparison vehicles?
  • Does the seller seem overly willing to do a quick deal?
  • Is the seller prepared to show you the car at their address or do they insist on bringing it to you or meeting at a public location? 
  • Can the seller produce any documentation from when they purchased the car? How long have they owned it and do they have an original purchase receipt? Beware sellers who say they can’t produce documents because they are selling the car on behalf of another person.
  • Can the seller produce the registration papers and are they willing to show you photo identification such as a driver’s licence that matches the name on the registration certificate. If not why not? 
  • Has the car been recently re-registered? This may indicate that the car has been moved from inter-state, has been unregistered for a period of time undergoing repairs, or it may have been a written-off vehicle.
  • Is there a service book for the car? One would expect a car under five years old to still have its service book. Do the intervals between the service dates seem reasonable for the total kilometres or are there unexplained gaps?
  • Does the 17 digit VIN number (usually stamped into the body in the engine bay, but also appears on the build and compliance labels) exactly match the number in the service book and on the registration certificate? 
  • Does the seller agree to let you have the car examined by a qualified mechanic or vehicle inspection service? If not why not?


  • Undertake a Personal Property Security Register (PPSR ) check (  which will give you information on whether the car has been reported stolen, has been recorded as a written off vehicle or is subject to finance.  If there is money owing on the car, you can’t receive title until the seller has repaid the loan. 
  • Search PropertyVault to ensure we don’t have a matching stolen car.
  • Obtain a comprehensive receipt from the seller. 
  • Trust Your Instinct 

If something just doesn’t seem right about the deal, don’t buy it.  There are many other cars to choose from.


The CarVAULT Registration Sale Report is a free tool designed to highlight genuine sellers with nothing to hide, providing key car and provenance information to aid buyers in conducting thorough due diligence. The Sale Report benefits persons with existing and newly registered cars added in the VAULT at the time of sale.

  • When a member registers their car in the VAULT, the property information, photographs and ownership history is recorded and date stamped in the log book, as well as any future changes undertaken during its ownership.
  • When the member decides to sell their property, they ‘Mark’ it for sale completing the sale declaration questions and optional links to websites where they intend to advertise.
  • Once submitted and approved, the car is searchable on PropertyVAULT and the Sale Report URL link can be shared on buy and sell platforms, providing a simple way for purchasers to reference the report.
  • For the Sale Report to provide the greatest value from the provenance recording and date stamping process, it is recommended that the car is comprehensively registered in the VAULT from new. 
  • Once the car is sold, the VAULT registration can be transferred to the new owner, ensuring the cars provenance remains intact.

IMPORTANT:  PropertyVAULT does not warrant the authenticity of any information or photographs in the Sale Report, including the bona fides and identity of the seller and the current and any prior registered owner. The information in the Sale Report should only be used as an aid when conducting due diligence.


If you find a car for sale that matches a stolen car on PropertyVAULT, report your findings via the 'MAKE A REPORT' tab on the stolen car post. If we don’t have a match and you still consider it may be stolen, contact Police on 131444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.