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Serial numbered vs non-serial numbered search

You can search the PPSR using a serial number or by the details of a grantor. It’s important to do a PPS search using the right criteria.

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Understand serial numbered vs non-serial numbered search

There are two main ways to search the PPSR – by the property’s serial number or by the details of the grantor (i.e. the person who granted the security interest, usually the seller). A search won’t tell you how much debt is owed, but it lets you know who it might be owed to so you can find out more.

Not all goods or equipment with a serial number can be searched on the PPSR by that number. For example, jack hammers, irrigation pumps, computers and coffee machines are not considered serial numbered goods and would be registered as ‘other goods’. You need to search by the grantor’s details to find these.

The PPSR is designed so that you only need to search the correct identifier, but in some situations, you may want to do some extra searching for peace of mind. For example, if you aren’t sure if something has been registered against a serial number or the seller’s details, you may wish to search both.

Serial numbered personal property

Serial numbered personal property includes motor vehicles, aircraft, watercraft and some intellectual property rights such as trademarks. The most common item searched by serial number is motor vehicles.

In the PPSR, a motor vehicle is defined as:

  • anything designed to be propelled on land and capable of travelling more than 10km/h and with power of over 200W (such as a car, truck, ute or motorbike)
  • something which can be towed at the same speed (such as a horse float, caravan or trailer).

A motor vehicle search can be completed using the following serial number identifiers:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • chassis
  • manufacturer’s number.

Because of the specific description of a motor vehicle, some motorised equipment, such as a bobcat, may not be regarded as a motor vehicle; but an excavator, harvester or backhoe might be. If you’re unsure, you need to research the vehicle’s maximum speed and power, and check if the equipment can be towed at more than 10km/h.

Non-serial-numbered property

Common examples of non-serial-numbered goods include machinery and equipment, livestock, crops, shares and outboard motors.

If you are searching for non-serial-numbered personal property, you check the PPSR by doing a grantor search on the organisation’s identifier — usually Australian Company Number (ACN) or, in the case of an individual, their name and date of birth as listed on a driver’s licence.

There are specific rules about how to identify a grantor when registering on the PPSR so it is important to correctly identify the grantor (usually the seller) when searching the PPSR for these types of goods. Searching against the wrong details could mean you don’t find a registration and purchase assets with money owing on them, which puts them at risk of being repossessed by a bank or financier, even though you’ve paid for them.

For more information on how to do an organisation search see: Do an organisation search

Many businesses also do a grantor search of the PPSR as part of a credit check or when onboarding a new customer. By searching against the organisation you can find out if anybody else has registered an interest over the assets.

The PPSR is designed so that you only need to search the correct identifier, but in some situations, you may want to do some extra searching for peace of mind. For example, if you aren’t sure if something has been registered against a serial number or the seller’s details, you may wish to search both.

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