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5 Tips for Buying Used Cars in Australia

Updated on February 7, 2015

Used Cars In Australia - Let the Buyer Beware

When it comes to buying a used car in Australia, it is definitely a matter of caveat emptor or 'let the buyer beware'. Used car salesmen in Australia do not have a good reputation for telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There is so much emphasis on achieving sales results, that the things you really should be told about can sometimes be 'forgotten'.

Am I sounding a little cynical? Perhaps I am. Of course there are exceptions to the rule and I am sure there are good honest reliable used car sales people who are intent on building a great reputation. It's a good idea to ask around your family, friends and work collegues to see if they can recommend a used car dealer before you go looking at used cars for sale.

Fortunately there are ways to help protect yourself from unwittingly buying a lemon that will end up costing you an arm and a leg just to keep on the road. Let's look at some of the ways you can reduce the risk of a bad purchase.

Used Cars For Sale
Used Cars For Sale

5 Tips When Buying A Used Car In Australia

1. Give yourself as much time as you need. Don't be rushed by someone who is in a hurry to close a sale. You may want to browse through the weekend papers and online used car sales sites to get an idea of what is on offer in your price range. Check out the number of kilometres the car has travelled. In Australia the average is 20,000klms per year. The higher the kilometres travelled, the more likely some repairs may be needed. Generally speaking a petrol engine should last up to 400,000 kilometres, depending on how regularly it has been serviced over the years. You can expect a deisel engine to last much longer, even up to 1million kilometres depending on how well it has been taken care of.

2. Get a mechanical check done. If you are not mechanically minded yourself it is a good idea to have a mechanic look over the vehicle for you. I usually get a ‘road worthy certificate’ or ‘pink slip’ as they are also known as. Although this is not a thorough check, it will at least tell you if it is worth investigating further. This type of check will cost you around $30.

If there is no bad news, you may want to go further and have an Automobile Association such as NRMA, RACQ, RACV etc do another thorough inspection and provide you with a comprehensive report. This type of service is around $150 and will give you piece of mind that you are not buying a car that you will regret later.

3. Find out the vehicles history. You will definitely want to know if the vehicle you are buying has been written off in an accident and later repaired, has money owing on it, been in a flood, had the odometer wound backwards, or if it has been stolen.

To do this you will need to get the VIN number from the vehicles compliance plate - usually located on the firewall under the bonnet below the windscreen. Check that it matches the registration papers, and then use the VIN number to carry out a check online at somewhere like They will also give you a current valuation together with safety and emission ratings.

4. When buying a used car from a dealer in Australia, be aware that the price in the car sales ad, is not necessarily the price you will have to pay. It is worth trying to bargain the price down. If you are looking for a used car priced over $20,000 you might genuinely expect to ultimately buy the vehicle for $1000 less than the price in the ad. It’s worth a try, you could save yourself a lot of money on your next used car purchase.

5. Be cautious if the dealer you are buying from offers an ‘upsell’. This might be something like a car care pack for $50 (valued at $120) or an extra warranty to cover your car for faults over a number of years. These types of warranties are usually less than $500 and sound like a great idea. But you will be locked into returning your used car to the same dealer for regular servicing so as not to void the warranty. This is not an ideal situation for you, because you will have no flexibility on where you want to have your car serviced, nor the price you want to pay for the service. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so beware.

Have you ever bought a 'Lemon'

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Make sure you search the VIN number on your next used car for sale. It will tell you alot about the car including crash history! See Tip # 3.
Make sure you search the VIN number on your next used car for sale. It will tell you alot about the car including crash history! See Tip # 3.


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    • aboutaustralia profile image

      aboutaustralia 5 years ago from Newcastle, New South Wales

      It happens to so many people InTuneWithCooking - makes me a cranky ol girl that so many get ripped off. Hopefully this info will go some way to helping out a few people to avoid the pitfalls. Thx for your comment:)

    • InTuneWithCooking profile image

      InTuneWithCooking 5 years ago from Australia

      Good advice. I was stuck with a car that ended up costing more to fix than it was worth many years ago. Chalked it down as a lesson learned.