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The NRMA & Car Theft

Since 2007, when the NRMA closed its vehicle inspection service more vehicles are being re-birthed

The closure of the NRMA’s vehicle inspection unit in 2007 has caused a surge in car re-birthing in Sydney’s south-west. NRMA closed down its mobile vehicle inspection unit in March, 2007 after it couldn’t make a profit from the venture. Prior to this, NRMA staff regularly discovered “re-birthed” cars during pre-purchase inspections for clients. In fact, in some districts in the south-west of Sydney, inspectors would do five inspections a day and of those five, three would be re-birthed. The NRMA have 

Gangs steal cars and swap compliance plates with identical models they have bought as “repairable write-offs” from auction yards. They basically cut the firewall out of the damaged car and weld it into the stolen one. The thieves target the Asian community because they are less likely to involve the police if they find the vehicle is stolen. Thieves can either fix the car with parts from undamaged stolen vehicles, or simply switch the plates of the damaged car to a stolen vehicle and sell the rest of the car for parts and scrap metal.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council has called for new laws to ensure that licensed operators get priority at vehicle auctions. Failing that, it wants to end the practice of selling repairable write-offs completely. But, unfortunately legal loopholes were allowing professional crime syndicates to use stolen parts to fix damaged cars that insurance companies had classified as "repairable written offs".

Professional criminals would  target weak points in the laws by stealing vehicles for their parts.They are using the rest of the car for scrap, which has the added benefit of removing fingerprints and DNA, and providing financial rewards because of the increased price of scrap metal.

Car theft has fallen in recent years but will still thrive until loopholes in the rules for reselling and re-registering written-off cars was closed. In 2011, the NSW Government had announced new legislation to ban the re-registration of all repairable written-off vehicles.  The move comes as the Government toughens its stance of car rebirthing, and means vehicles that have been written-off by an insurer can no longer be sold at auction. It is hoped the new legislation will help stop the sale of potentially unsafe and/or stolen vehicles to unsuspecting customers.

Tell-tale signs of a re-birthed car:


  • The price is too good to be true. The rule of thumb is if it’s cheap, it’s cheap for a reason

  • The seller doesn’t give you a specific address. They may suggest to meet at a carpark or a block of flats, but won’t give you an individual unit number.

  • There are weld marks on the firewall or chassis rails.

  • The number plates are too new for the car. Thieves will sometimes put a set of 2012 plates on a stolen 2008 model-year car.

  • The seller baulks at the idea of having the car inspected.

  • They are vague about the history of the car – how long they’ve had it, where they have it serviced etc.

  • There are no log books.

  • The address on the registration papers doesn’t match the address on the seller’s licence.

  • The seller is reluctant to show you his/her licence.The seller doesn’t have a receipt from when he/she purchased the car



Reference: Richard Blackburn,, September 4, 2008

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