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Free vehicle finance check: How to check if a car has finance owing for free?

Why should you check if a car has finance owing?

How do you check if a used car has finance owing on it, and do that check for free?

While there are plenty of websites offering paid rego checks, you can easily get a free registration check by visiting the website of the transport authority in the state or territory where you live (see our list below), and entering the number plate or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the used car you’re looking to buy.

These free, government-supplied rego checks will tell you the car’s registration status, expiry date, make, model and the details of its CTP insurer and the expiry date of that policy. 

To find out if the used car you’re looking at has finance owing on it, however, you need to go a further step and conduct a search of the PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register). Again, there are plenty of sites that offer to conduct this search for you, for a fee, like PPSR and they will prepare you a PPSR report that includes information on where the car has have been stolen, written-off or has money owing on it, and throw in a vehicle valuation, among other things. Don’t be sucked in by the word “free” on that website, however, because it’s not.

There are, in fact, a large number of sites purporting to be the official PPSR site, and charging various amounts of money - up to $35 - for what used to be called a REVs check, but the site you’re looking for is the official PPSR one.

On this site you will be able to get all the information you need, and, while it’s not free, it’s very close, because a search costs just $2 (yes, you would think the government would provide such a vital service for free, but they don’t).

There is, however, one way to get the PPSR for “free”, and save that $2, but it does involve handing over your details to an insurance company. Budget Direct offers “Free PPSR car history check” on its site.

As it says on its website: “While some providers charge up to $35 for an online PPSR check (or VIN search, as it’s also known), Budget Direct can arrange one for you free of charge.”

So why is a PPSR check important, and should you bother?

Why should you check if a car has finance owing?

In Australia, we’re already paying way too much for cars, so the idea of buying one that already has money owing on it seems particularly unwise, and absurd.

No one, of course, would do such a thing on purpose, but it can be a trap for the unwary. And the incredible fact is that private sellers are not obliged to tell you whether there is finance outstanding on their car, which means you could be buying a vehicle with debt attached, and those debts will then become your problem. 

The finance company that issued the loan on the car maintains a “financial interest” in that vehicle until the money has been paid and has the legal right to claim that money from its owner - which could be you, if you’re not careful. In a worst-case scenario, your new used car could even be repossessed and sold to pay off any debts.

No, it’s not an ideal system, but it’s easy enough to make sure there is no money owing by doing a vehicle history check, which used to be a called a REVs (Register of Incumbent Vehicles) check, but is now a PPSR check.

Where can you do a free rego check in your state or territory?

Here is our helpful list of places to click in your locality to conduct a free rego check:

- In NSW, visit the Service NSW website.

- In Victoria, go to the VicRoads website.

- In Queensland, visit the Department of Transport and Main Roads website.

- In the Northern Territory, go to the Northern Territory government website.

- In Western Australia, visit the Department of Transport website.

- In South Australia, go to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website.

- In Tasmania, visit the Tasmanian Government website.

- In the ACT, go to the Access Canberra website.