Finding the right car
Here's how to shop around for a new or used car to be sure you
don't end up with a lemon.
Dealers, auctions or buying
Classified ads in newspapers, car magazines and online car sales
sites are a good place to start when looking for a car. The cars
you see advertised may be for sale at car dealerships, auction
houses or at private homes.
Buying a car at an auction can be cheaper but there's no warranty, no test drives and no inspections. Make sure you check
the paperwork and research any debts and warnings on pre-owned cars
you see at auction. You can do this by checking the Personal
Property Securities Register (PPSR) - a national service
allowing you to check a private vehicle before you buy.
Most auction houses ask for a deposit at the fall of the hammer,
so make sure you have the deposit available.
Do your homework before making a bid at an auction. If you
haven't bid at auction before, take along someone who has
experience buying at auction.
Buying from a car dealer
Cars sold by licensed dealers can be
more expensive than buying privately but dealers guarantee the car
won't be taken away from you because someone else owes money on
Dealers also have to give a warranty
on cars under 10 years old that have travelled less than
Consumer affairs and fair trading government agencies regulate
how cars can be sold through car dealers. Visit your state's agency
to get more information on buying from a car dealer.
Extra insurance offered by car dealers
If you are arranging finance for your car you may also be
offered add-on insurance products from a car dealer like loan
protection, gap cover or tyre and rim insurance. Think twice before
you take up these offers as they may not be good value for money
and only pay in limited circumstances. Find out more about add-on
Private sales can deliver a bargain. However, test-driving and
mechanical inspections are a must. Be sure to ask if the car
has been in a crash. Always go to the seller's home
address. Don't arrange to meet them somewhere. Check that the home
address is the same as the one on the registration certificate.
Take a test drive
The best way to assess a car, particularly a used car, is by
taking a test drive. Whatever you do, always set aside enough
time to do this. Always look at cars during the daytime, as
darkness may hide all kinds of problems.
Consider taking a friend with you when you do a test drive.
Those extra eyes, ears and hands will come in handy and it will
help if they know something about cars.
If it's a rainy day don't go looking for cars. The rain
hides previous paintwork, nicks, and scratches, and makes thin,
worn paint look slick and shiny.
Get a qualified mechanic
If you don't feel confident about doing your own inspection,
bring along a qualified car mechanic. The cost of this will be
worth it when you get a car in good working condition. All state
and territory automobile clubs offer a comprehensive mechanical
Safe cars save you money
Buying a car with advanced safety
features such as anti-lock brakes, air bags, electronic stability
control and high crash protection ratings will decrease the chances
of serious injury and death in the event of a crash, reduce the
cost of your car insurance and may also boost your vehicle's resale
If you want to know what safety features to look for in your
first car, go to: Australian New Car Assessment Program
(ANCAP) and Used Car Safety Rating Program
Check the warranty
The purpose of a warranty is to save you major expenses when
your car breaks down.
Manufacturer's warranties on new cars
A manufacturer's warranty applies to all new cars, and goes with
the car even if it changes owners within the warranty period.
A full manufacturer's warranty provides all service necessary and
is free of charge to the owner. If something is wrong mechanically
with the car it will be fixed free of charge.
There is usually no warranty if you buy a car privately.
Used car warranties
Used car warranties vary from car to car. Low-mileage
late-model used cars may have some of the original manufacturer's
warranty remaining, which is then transferred to the new car
Watch out for extended warranties offered
by some dealers. Car dealers usually receive a commission for selling these products so
make sure you are getting value for money.
See the ACCC's warranties webpage and NSW
Fair Trading's extended warranties
webpage for more information.
Read the contract
A sale contract is a legally binding agreement between the
seller (dealership) and buyer (you). Before signing a contract you
- Read it carefully, including the fine print
- Don't be pressured into signing it on the spot (If you need
more time to read it then take it home to read through.)
- Get help to understand the contract
- Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces
- Make sure that all parties initial any changes that are made to
the contract you sign
- Always get a copy of any contract you sign
Some contracts cannot be cancelled because you change your mind.
For more information on cooling off periods when you can change
your mind on car contracts, see your state's fair trading or
consumer affairs website.
Last updated: 22 Oct 2018