How to do a Car History Check Before Buying a Used Vehicle

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For first-time car buyers, those who want to buy a car on a budget, or car collectors, buying a used vehicle can be a wise decision. A used vehicle is almost always cheaper than a brand-new one. But used cars can come with issues, so how do you check their condition? 

A car history check can be done through a PPSR check, a QLD rego check or a CarHistory report. These services will give you a detailed outline of a car’s history, informing you of any previous or ongoing issues.

You should always get a pre-purchase vehicle inspection performed to check the physical condition of a used car. However, because the vehicle has been in the hands of a previous owner, there might be some things that you need to watch out for, such as past damages, unpaid payments, and more. This can be done with a car history check. 

Let’s find out how you can acquire historical data about a used car.

Why is it Important to Check a Car’s History Before Buying a Used Vehicle?

Knowing a second-hand vehicle’s history before purchasing it is essential. The more you know about the car, the more it will help you make a worthwhile investment. Think about it: you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for a car that turns out to be extremely troublesome, do you?

For instance, if the car you’re eyeing has had multiple owners or has been in an accident, the vehicle will likely have recurring problems. On the other hand, if the previous owner was a car enthusiast or collector, chances are the used vehicle still functions like a brand new vehicle.

To get this information, you need a comprehensive car history check.

How Can I Check a Car’s History?

You can get a car history check in Australia in 3 convenient ways: a PPSR search, a QLD Rego search, and a CarHistory Report. This is a much better alternative than trying to get information from the previous owner.

Let’s discuss these car search methods in detail. 

PPSR Search

One way you can obtain used car information is through a PPSR search. PPSR, which means Personal Property Securities Register, is an official Australian government register. The PPSR lists debts, obligations, and other security interests in personal property.

It replaced the older state-based registers such as REVS, ASIC Register of Company Charges, and other vehicle registers. Note that the PSSR does not list tiles or ownership certificates of personal property.

The register can be accessed online 24/7.

What Does a PPSR Search Tell You?

When you do a PPSR search, you get information that helps you avoid the risks involved in purchasing a used car. Doing a PPSR search when buying a car from a private seller and not a licensed car dealer is highly recommended.

By doing a PPSR search, you can determine the following:

  • If the vehicle has a recorded security interest against it. If it does, it may mean that the car’s previous owner has yet to pay for the car. Thus, it could be repossessed from you if you buy it.
  • The make, model, and colour of the vehicle
  • Written-off status
  • Stolen status
  • If the car is a part of the compulsory Takata airbag recall and has not been listed as fixed 

In addition, you can get a search certificate. You can use such certification as a legal record.

How Much Does a PPSR Search Cost?

A PPSR search can be done either online or through the phone. Each has a car history check fee, which is non-refundable.

  • If you opt for online self-service, it will cost you $2.00.
  • If you opt for assisted phone service, it will cost you $7.00 

Payment can be made via a debit or credit card.

How Do I Get a PPSR Search?

To get a PPSR search, you need the VIN or chassis number of the car you want to buy. Vehicles manufactured after 1989 will have a 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN). Those built before 1989 only have chassis numbers.

These numbers are printed somewhere in the car, such as under the engine bay, driver’s door closure area, or at the bottom of the windscreen.

What if the car doesn’t have a VIN or chassis number? You can use its manufacturer’s number. Note that the manufacturer’s numbers are not unique, and using them in a PPSR search might not produce accurate results.

Additionally, you can do a search on the grantor for any security interest recorded on him.

QLD Rego Check

Another way to do a car history check in Australia is to do a QLD rego check, which presents a registration history of the vehicle you wish to buy. The service is free of charge for vehicles that are registered in Queensland.

The rego check also lets you determine if the vehicle you intend to purchase is registered or if the registration is about to expire. You don’t want to end up with legal sanctions because you’re accidentally driving a car that’s not registered.

You should avoid buying unregistered cars as there may be hidden reasons why the previous owner did not renew the car’s registration. These reasons could include mechanical faults that make driving the vehicle unsafe on the roads.

What Does a QLD Rego Check Tell You?

A free QLD rego check allows you to obtain the car’s registration information. Such information includes the following:

  • Registration number, status, and expiry date
  • Make, model, and body shape of the vehicle
  • Purpose of the vehicle (whether it was used for personal or commercial purposes)
  • Inspection due date

More specific details can be obtained through a car history report. In addition to the data mentioned above, you can also determine the following information:

  • Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurer details
  • PPSR certificate
  • Stolen, written-off, and finance history checks
  • Registration details
  • Takata airbag recall information
  • VIN check
  • First-sale data
  • Vehicle valuation
  • Odometer check
  • Price/odometer comparison

How Much Does a QLD Rego Check Cost?

A QLD rego check is free of charge for vehicles registered in Queensland. Some used car sellers may also provide a rego check service so you won’t have to. Note that this may cost you a minimal fee.

How Do I Get a QLD Rego Check?

To get a QLD rego check, you need the car’s rego number or the VIN. Visit the  Department of Transport and Main Roads website and enter either of these numbers. Alternatively, you can download and use the QLD Rego Check app from Google Playstore or the Apple App store.

Note that the QLD rego search only works on vehicles with VINs, that is, vehicles manufactured since January 1989. You cannot search using the vehicle’s serial identification, hull identification, and chassis number.

In addition, you cannot use the QLD rego search service to check for a registered owner’s details or to determine if the owner has cancelled the car’s registration.

CarHistory Report

CarHistory is a privately owned car service history check online bureau that provides a comprehensive array of services for obtaining vital historical information about the car you wish to buy.

The used-car industry’s jargon can be challenging for the ordinary person to comprehend. CarHistory can provide easy-to-understand car history reports, especially for people unfamiliar with the industry.

CarHistory promises clients safe, secure, official, and in-depth car history reports that are more comprehensive than their competitors.

What Does a CarHistory Report Tell You?

By using CarHistory, you can benefit from a lot of services, including the following:

  • Damage, stolen, written-off, and finance checks
  • Car registration details 
  • Odometer check
  • Price/odometer comparison
  • Vehicle valuation
  • VIN check
  • First-sale information
  • Previous-sale information
  • The entire rego search described above
  • The entire PPSR search described above, in addition to a PPSR certificate 
  • ANCAP safety and emission ratings

How Much Does a CarHistory Report Cost?

As a private entity, CarHistory reports require you to make payments depending on your required service. However, the payments are sound and affordable. Below is a list of services and their corresponding rates:

  • CarHistory report – $36.95
  • PPSR certificate – $25.00
  • Price comparison report – $9.30

How Do I Get a Car History Report?

Like other car history check services mentioned above, you need the VIN or the rego number of the car you wish to buy.

The car’s VIN is stamped on the dashboard or one of the car doors’ posts. Also, check the vehicle’s registration certificate and insurance policy; the VIN is usually indicated there.

What Should I Look For in a Car’s History?

Upon receiving a car history check, you should be on the lookout for vital pieces of information. This pre-purchase checklist should be able to help you make an informed decision.

  • Has it been in an accident? If it has been in one, it’s a red flag. 
  • Is the car written off? If so, it’s not safe or roadworthy anymore.
  • Are there outstanding recalls involved? Ask the seller for proof of recall completion if there is indeed a recall.
  • Check the finance history. The previous owner might have failed to fulfil his financial obligations. You might end up paying those obligations instead if you purchase a leased car.
  • Was the car regularly serviced and maintained? Check out the service history.
  • What is the actual resale value of the vehicle?

What Do I Do if There’s an Issue in Car’s History?

Just because a car has an issue in its history doesn’t mean it’s unsafe or not worth purchasing. If the car you want to purchase has issues in its car history report, you should: 

  • Have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle.
  • Do a test drive. Take note of unusual sounds, smells, vibrations, etc., as you drive the car.
  • Check the title document. Be on the lookout for data that implies the vehicle has been wrecked, repurchased, etc.
  • Ask for an updated car history report from the seller or car dealer.
  • When reading car history check reports, don’t forget to check for disclosures and fine print.
  • Be thorough. If possible, do two car checks.

By doing some extra footwork, you may discover that the supposedly problematic car you want to buy may be fine after all.

Related Questions

Is It Worth Repairing a Car After an Accident?

Sometimes, the repairs are worth it and can save you a lot of money, especially if your auto insurance covers them. Sometimes, the damage done is too costly, and the repair or upkeep can become prohibitively expensive. It depends on the degree or nature of the damage.

You can ask a licensed mechanic to help you, especially if the car you wish to buy has a history of accidents or damage.

How Do You Check if a Car Has Had an Insurance Claim?

The easiest way is to ask the seller or previous owner if they have made any insurance claims while they had the vehicle in their possession. You can also check with the National Claims and Policies Database (NCPD).

The car history check options listed above may also yield useful information regarding insurance claims about the used car you’re eyeing to buy.


Purchasing a used car can be a prudent and rewarding experience. But to ensure your investment does not go to waste, it’s important to do a car history check before purchasing so your beloved car can be on the road for a long, long time.


This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Shift Automotive does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information, and specifics will vary according to your vehicle’s manufacturer and model. This article is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified automotive service technician.