The Drive Team
Buying used can be trickier than buying new, especially if you're not a car expert. Follow these simple steps, though, and you'll emerge with your dream car and not a nightmare on wheels.
First off, know your subject. Research the type of car you want to purchase, and make yourself aware of the basic facts so that you know what your car should have, and also any 'special modifications' like a worked engine or big wheels will be immediately obvious.
Then it's down to business. First up we'll deal with buying from a private individual. You can ask as many or as few questions as you like, but as a bare minimum ask the following questions:
• How long have you owned the car?
• How many owners has the car had?
• Does the seller actually own the car?
• Why are you selling it?
• How many kilometres has it done?
• Do you have a full service history for the car (log book)?
• Has it ever been in a crash? Is it garaged?
You are trying to establish a basic history of the car, and what kind of life it has had. This will give you an insight into potential problems the car may experience in the future. For example, a high mileage car with many past owners suggests it has had a rough life, where a low mileage car with one owner - even if the car's ten years old - suggests that person took care of the car.
When to look
As a general rule, buy the newest car with the lowest number of kilometres you can afford. Try to avoid looking at cars on rainy days, because it can hide imperfections in the paint that could indicate previous panel damage.
Take a friend with you, preferably one who knows a bit about cars. If you don't have any expertise and are still concerned about the condition of the car you're looking at, consider an independent inspection; various motoring clubs offer mobile inspections that could potentially save you thousands in repairs.
If a car has been properly serviced, it should be in reasonable mechanical condition. New cars come with a handbook, with pages that are filled in at
Vehicle inspection reports can help give peace of mind when buying a car privately. However there are some things that you can look out for yourself. DIY Inspection
Make sure the vehicle has a roadworthy certificate that is no more than 30 days old. If you have bought from a dealer, they are obliged to stand by that roadworthy certificate for 30 days.
Licensed dealers are obliged to guarantee that no money is owing on the car, it has not been deregistered due to parking fines or previously declared a wreck. If a car turns out to be stolen, the purchase price must be refunded by the dealer or, if no longer trading, the Motor Dealer Compensation Fund.
If buying privately, check with your state transport authority (see table below). This will tell you if a car has been reported stolen, written off by an insurance company, there is money owing on it or if the rego has been cancelled due to unpaid fines.
State Transport Authorities
NSW - Roads & Traffic Authority
VIC - VICRoads
QLD - Department of Main Roads
WA - Dept of Planning and Infrastructure
NT - NT Transport & Infrastructure
TAS - Transport Tasmania
ACT - ACT Territory & Municipal Services
Numbers on the registration papers should be checked against those on the car to guard against buying a stolen car. Also check the seller's driver's licence to ensure their name matches the name on the registration papers, and only buy a car from the same address as listed on the registration and driver's licence.
Decided to buy?
Make sure you organise insurance before you drive the car away. Also, notify the appropriate authorities that you are the new owner of the vehicle.
Check whether the car you are looking at has been recalled as part of a safety campaign and, if it has, ensure the repairs have been made.
Make sure the car doesn't have finance owing on it - any debts could quickly become yours. Your best bet is to check with the transport authority in your state, which can also provide you with a certificate (effectively insurance) for a nominal fee.
Consider the additional cost of stamp duty / transfer fees when you're working out the total cost of the purchase.