1. Buy Through a Reputable Licensed Dealer
It is always preferable to buy a used car through a reputable licensed dealer. We recommend this because dealers have an interest in ensuring that they sell you a roadworthy car, if only to keep their reputation. A franchised dealer (e.g. they also sell new vehicles such as Ford, Holden, Toyota, etc.) is generally the best choice for used vehicles.
If it is a passenger vehicle it will come with a statutory warranty of at least ninety days or 5,000 kms (under 10 years old or 160,000 kms). This provides protection for you in the event that you find a problem with the car when you drive it off the dealer’s lot.
2. Buy as young a car and low kilometres as your budget will allow
It is a fact that the older the car or the higher the kilometres travelled the greater the chance a car will cost more money in repairs and maintenance to keep on the road. A good rule of thumb is that for every year of a car’s age it should not have travelled more than 20,000 kms. So a 3 year old car with 100,000 kms on the speedo is one that has probably worked a little too hard in its relatively short history on the road. It is more sensible to shop for a car with 60,000 kms or less at 3 years of age.
3. Test Drive the Car & Service History
So many people seem to avoid the critical matter of test driving a car before they put down a deposit. Only during a test drive will you identify and unusual squeaks and other unwanted sounds that could indicate mechanical or other problems.
You need to also ensure that the car has been serviced regularly in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidance. Check the log book and confirm that all services have been completed as evidenced by completion of the log book by a licensed mechanic. Such services should also be completed at or around the time / kilometre intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Stay well clear of a car that has missed services or such services have been undertaken via a catch-up service (double up) well after the recommended timing. Missed services indicate poor maintenance history which can inevitably result in a shortening of the expected life of mechanical parts including the engine.
4. Arrange for an Inspection
If you are buying a used car privately then seriously consider having and inspection undertaken by an authorised mechanic. We recommend using the motor associations such as NRMA or RACV before you buy a car privately as it will identify any obvious problems and avoid the risk of you purchasing a headache. If you are buying through a licensed dealer then you may wish to undertake a mechanical inspection prior to the expiry of the warranty. Any issues identified in the inspection report should be provided to the dealer for their rectification before the end of the warranty.
5. Make sure there is no encumbrance on the car
An encumbrance is a legal term for a charge by a bank or finance company over title to the car. You should ensure before you buy a car that you check the Personal Properties Securities Register at www.ppsr.gov.au to do so you will need the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which is 17 digits long.