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Written-off vehicles

A vehicle is a written-off vehicle if it is:

  • a total loss; or
  • is to be, or has been, wrecked or disassembled for salvage; or
  • is to be, or has been, sold or acquired for wrecking or salvage.

Total loss is defined as a vehicle damaged by accident, collision, demolition, dismantling, fire, flood or other event, to the extent that its fair salvage value, when added to the cost of repairing it so it is roadworthy, would be more than its fair market value immediately before the event that caused the damage [Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 reg 71].

There are two categories of written-off vehicles. A vehicle may be declared to be a statutory write-off if it has severe structural damage that prevents it from being driven safely. Only an authorised insurer or agent has the authority to declare a vehicle a statutory write-off.

A vehicle that has been declared a statutory write-off cannot be registered and must not be driven. A statutory write-off cannot be repaired.


  • in the case of an offence committed in the course of a trade or business the maximum penalty is $2 500
  • in any other case the maximum penalty is $1 250

All statutory write-offs must be notified to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

A vehicle that has sustained substantial damage but does not meet the definition of a statutory write-off may be declared a repairable write-off. Generally these will be vehicles that have the potential to be repaired, although significant rebuilding will be required. The owner of the vehicle, an insurer or an authorised motor trade agent can declare a vehicle a repairable write-off after an accident. A vehicle declared a repairable write-off must not be driven other than for the purpose of being driven to or from a place of repair or inspection.

Penalty for driving a notified written-off vehicle on a road (other than to or from a place of repair or inspection):

  • in the case of an offence committed in the course of a trade or business -- $2 500 maximum penalty
  • in any other case -- $1 250 (maximum penalty)

The Registrar of Motor Vehicles must be given notice of any written-off vehicle and a notice must be affixed to the vehicle as specified by the Regulations.

Written off vehicles are notified to a national database, which can be searched on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR).

Written-off vehicles  :  Last Revised: Tue Jun 23rd 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.