Tips to buying a used car
There’s no shortage of benefits to buying a used car, but blindly paying thousands for one without the proper research and background checks is financially risky.
Here’s a checklist of what to consider when buying a used car:
- How much you’ll be driving it. Do you need a cheap run-around or a sturdy beast that can endure daily bouts of long-distance driving?
- Lifestyle factors. Is it practical for your lifestyle? For example, is there enough room for your kids or for transporting furniture?
- Safety. What’s its safety rating? Some older used cars lack the newer safety features that are deemed critical in the modern era.
- Security. Does it have modern security features?
- Car insurance premiums. If the car lacks the latest safety and security features, you may be facing higher car insurance premiums.
- Where you’ll buy the car from. You can get a car from either a dealer, an auction or a private sale, all of which have different pros and cons.
What to check when buying a used car?
You should always endeavour to check the following aspects of a used car:
- The outside: paintwork, damage to the tyres and panels, oil leaks and broken windows
- The inside: working seatbelts, working lights and accessories, and wear and tear on the seats and carpets
- Under the bonnet: check the radiator cap, battery and cooling fans for signs of corrosion or damage
If possible, take the car for a test drive to see how smoothly the car runs and listen for any irregular sounds or movements the car makes.
Below are some low variable rate car loans for used cars.
|Variable||New, Used||99 years||More details|
Car Loan - Excellent Credit
|Variable||Used||5 years||More details|
Car Loan (Car 1-5 Years)
|Variable||New, Used||10 years||More details|
Unsecured Car Loan
|Variable||New, Used||7 years||More details|
*Comparison rates based on a loan of $30,000 for a five-year loan term. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate. Rates correct as of June 15, 2022. View disclaimer.
Should you buy from a car dealer or a private seller?
Buying from a car dealer or a private seller both have their advantages and disadvantages. Below is a summary to point you in the right direction:
How to buy a car privately?
Buying a car from a private seller can be cheaper than buying from a dealer, but you need to have your wits about you. You should run a history check of the car to see if has been written-off, stolen or has finance owing on it. If you buy a car with finance owned, you could become liable for the debts and the car could become repossessed.
Consult the Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) in your state or territory to check for finance owing.
There can be fewer consumer law protections in place when buying a car privately, which can put you at greater risk of being exposed to fraud, so do your due diligence on both the car and the seller.
What are the costs involved in buying a car?
In addition to the price of the car, you could be charged a combination of stamp duty, inspection fees, compulsory third party insurance (CTP), Encumbrance/PPSR fees to check for finance owing as well as potential interest on a car loan or finance deal. For a car loan, you might need to pay the following fees:
- Application or establishment fees
- Ongoing car loan fees
- Documentation fees
- Early or missed repayment fees
- Balloon payments at the end of the loan
Vehicle stamp duty
Stamp duty on a vehicle is a one-off payment, so there are no ongoing costs to worry about. But it can be pretty expensive. Stamp duty varies by state and applies to both new and used cars.
How much does stamp duty cost?
The table below shows the different duty payable in each state, for the same vehicle. The estimated cost will vary with a higher or lower purchase price, or with used or more environmentally friendly cars. As such, it’s worth calculating your stamp duty fee yourself on top of using this table for comparison between states.
|State or Territory||Estimated duty payable|
Frequently Asked Questions
When buying a used car from a private seller, you should check if it has any finance owing. To do this, simply enter the number plate or the chassis number in your state's Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR) or Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) to check for outstanding debts.
You can also use these registers to see:
- The car's registration status
- The vehicle details like the make and model
- Whether the car is stolen or not
- Whether the car has been written off
- Checking this register may attract a fee.
Buying a car that still has finance owed by the previous owner becomes a matter of trust; Australian law dictates the buyer is responsible for checking if there are any debts owed on the car, so if you buy a car with finance on it, you could lose the car if the previous owner doesn't pay off that debt.
If you trust the person then buying a car under finance can be as easy as buying one without it, but you should check with the Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR) if you don't.
There are countless car buying sites in Australia, and it's impossible to say which is the best since there are merits to all of them. The most popular, however, are sites such as Carsales, Carsguide, Drive.com.au, Car City, Trading Post, Autoline and Carpoint. You can also buy and sell cars on sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.
Based on price data for used cars sold in Australia between 2006 to 2018, Manheim’s Market Intelligence team reported used car sales in September and October saw below average prices in 12 out of 13 years – 92% of the time. In the opposite sense, vehicles sold in March and April have achieved prices above the annual average in 12 out of the 13 years. Read more here.
A safe and sturdy car could also save yourself thousands of dollars in insurance excesses and repairs over the year, not to mention the significant personal costs of being involved in a serious accident. It’s also worth noting that your car insurance premiums might be lower with a safer car, as insurers do factor in the model of the car when handing out policies.
There are financial pitfalls to both car dealers and private sellers: you could end up paying too much after getting fleeced by a car salesman, or you could waste money on a car that breaks down the instant you’ve put your name on it. But private car sales can offer a better opportunity to save big money, so long as you do your due diligence.
There are some exceptions to paying stamp duty on new and used car purchases, such as if you’re on a disability pension, if the vehicle is used primarily to transport another disabled person, if you’re an eligible war veteran, etc. Read this stamp duty guide to find out more.