Tips from the inside: How a car dealer buys a car

October 3, 2017
Posted by: admin

A few weeks ago the team at eMotor were involved in a rather sobering experience. We were contacted by a lovely lady who lived several hours away and who was interested in one of our vehicles. She had a trade – a Holden Calais; otherwise known as the top dog of the Holden Commodore range.

“All good,” we said, “Send us some photos and information about the Calais and we’ll give you a trade in value before you travel all this way to see us.”

Our customer – being the honest type – told us about some damage on the roof that appeared to be only partially repaired. Our suspicions were aroused.

As we do with all our  vehicles – whether they are stock vehicles or trade-ins – we ran a PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register) and car history check, which revealed some rather surprising results.

The vehicle was not a Calais, but a Berlina. At some point someone had replaced Berlina badges with Calais badges – not entirely uncommon and not always for nefarious purposes. Mercedes-Benz owners, for example, will sometimes substitute AMG badges and wheels due to personal preferences. Nonetheless, the fact that the vehicle was a Berlina – a lower variant in the Commodore range – was a significant factor in its trade in value.

What was more concerning was that the vehicle was listed as a repairable write off. The vehicle had sustained hail damage several years ago and had been written off as a result.

However, what really put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, was that the car history report identified possible odometer rollback. In 2009 the vehicle odometer reading was about 181,000kms; in 2012 – 3 years later – the odometer reading was reported as 164,000kms.

This vehicle had the trifecta – identity crisis, written-off status, and incorrect kms. We considered it fortunate that the car was not also reported as stolen!

Our customer, who was unaware of anything untoward, was in shock when we informed her of the multiple issues with her vehicle.

This got us thinking – how does the average person go about buying a used car with confidence? As car dealers we get used to possessing a certain amount of knowledge that helps us assess the authenticity of a vehicle. We also have easy access to official information, like PPSR reports, car history reports, and VicRoads data.

However, when the car you’re interested in doesn’t look like these gems, how do you know if you should be concerned?


Many people might not know what a PPSR report is or how to get one. They might not know how to check for an odometer rollback when there are no service books and when odometer readings haven’t been reported in the past. And when the difference between two vehicle variants might be something as simple as leather and a slightly modified front bumper, substitute badges can easily fool a casual observer.

So we asked our buyer and main man – who’s been around the block once or twice – to give us some quick tips for how he might assess a used car. Helpfully, his name is Timi and so the mini-series, ‘Timi’s Tips’, was born.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks to hear some used car buying tips, straight from the horse’s mouth. Have some burning questions that you’ve always wanted to ask a car dealer? Let us know in the comments!

Oh, and our unlucky customer? Alls well that ends well, as the saying goes. We offered to take the Calais/Berlina off her hands for its wrecking value and we even got her a great Drive & Pay deal that saw her driving away in a sweet new ride. We made sure to give her the PPSR and car history report though!


Get the first of Timi’s Tips – how to check if a car has been in an accident.


Credit: All images from Car Throttle.