Why you can't sell you car on the side of the road

Over the last few months, Geraldton residents who have been wanting to sell their motor vehicles privately were parking them on vacant blocks along NWC Hwy. The sight of one or two cars for sale attracted others, and pretty soon there was a miniature private car yard on the edge of the busiest road in town. 

The practice was put to a halt recently by the local council, who erected these signs (pictured). 

Why the practice is frowned upon was questioned by quite a few residents, who couldn't see the harm in it. 

Firstly, there is a plethora of legislation regarding erecting any signage along a main road. If you head to the Mains Road department website, ( click here ) your head will spin with the amount of rules. The thinking behind all the restrictions is basically that if we didn't have regulations regarding signage and roadside advertising, it would become a free-for-all with every business and individual erecting whatever signage they could afford, visually polluting our cityscapes. Which is fair enough. 

Having said that, their website states that the "Commissioner of Main Roads is currently in the process of delegating to Local Government, his powers and functions under the Main Roads (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1996 for all advertising signs on or in the vicinity of Highways and Main Roads."

So it's going to be a local government decision entirely very soon. 

Then there's the local government regulations. The sign above references local law 4.3 (2). This states:

 "A person shall not park a vehicle on land without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land on which the vehicle is parked."

Makes sense. You can't park your vehicle on someone else's block without their permission. 

So does that mean if a property owner grants permission we can set up a private car yard on their property?

Not quite. While the aforementioned regulations are the reasons given in this particular case by the city for shutting down the roadside vehicle sales, they could have used plenty of other laws. 

For starters, there's the issue of zoning. 

I live in a nice quiet residential cul-de-sac. If my neighbour decided one day he was going to start operating a car yard from his home, with people coming and going, pulling over and browsing, and test driving vehicles all day (and night) long, I would have a problem with that. 

I didn't move into the street under the pretense that a business would be operating there. And if the land is not zoned for commercial use, you cannot use it for that purpose. 

Which is how it should be. If a de-facto car yard is allowed to operate, where do you draw the line?

What do all the car yards have to say?

Car dealers know that many of us prefer to buy and sell our cars privately. They don't have a problem with that at all. 

But once upon a time in WA, the nature of the car industry was terrible. I mean, it was "throw your keys on the roof until you buy my car" terrible. Because it was so heavily engaged in practices of such poor ethics, the "Motor Vehicle Dealers Act 1974" was enacted to heavily regulate the industry. 

You now have to be licenced to be allowed to even be a car salesperson. Those pink signs you see on the dashboards of used cars aren't there for your convenience, they legally have to be there, and filled in. 

If a used vehicle on the dealer's register doesn't have the completed pink form in it, the dealer can be fined. 

But, if a car dealer has a vehicle parked even slightly off his premises and it has that pink form still on the dashboard, the dealer can also be fined. 

So you get the idea. There is HUGE expense and MASSIVE regulation to deal with, if you want to be a car dealer. Men and women who choose to open car yards sink a lot of money and time into their ventures, with the hope of getting some kind of reward. 

The legislation actually states that you must become a licenced dealer if you are someone who  

"sells or exchanges 4 or more vehicles in any 12 month period to or with persons who are not dealers"

So you can buy as many cars as you want, and trade them in with dealers. No problem there. But you are breaking state law if you sell more than 3 cars in a twelve month period privately. 

This is what car dealers traditionally have a problem with. It's people who start small sideline businesses buying and selling vehicles for profit, not complying with the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, and not having any of the expenses that registered car dealers have. It makes it hard for the dealers who do spend all that money on compliance with the regulations to compete. 

Cry me a river

It's worth noting, no car yards currently advertise with Everything Geraldton, so we're not trying to stick up for our own income stream here. 

We're just trying to paint you a picture of the different forces at play behind the scenes. 

So where CAN I sell my car?

Glad you asked. 

If you really think the people of Geraldton would be well served by having a dedicated place to park vehicles for sale, speak to your local councillor. 

Keep in mind though, if it were to be implemented, it's hardly going to be in a prime location near a busy road. And the risk of vandalism and theft to the vehicles is not an expense or burden the council (ergo, ratepayers) will want to bear. 

Then there's your online options. Gumtree, ebay, Quokka etc. Or you could advertise in the Guardian or Midwest Times. 

Everything Geraldton has a facebook group dedicated to all things automotive too. 

Click here to check it out. 

It's accessible from the EG apps and website too. It's free to use so hopefully it will make car hunting or selling a little easier for you. 


Jason Smith

Founder of Everything Geraldton, Everything Mandurah, & Everything Perth. Law Student. Father, Husband, Bitcoin, Cigars.