How to Buy a Used Car

Just because you’re buying a used car doesn’t mean you should end up with a lemon.

Buying a car is daunting, especially if you’re after a second-hand one because there are a few more factors to consider than when buying a brand-spanking-new one.

Juliet Potter from has put together a girl’s guide to help you drive away with a pre-loved car that you can keep on loving.

The Pros

You’ve done well in choosing to go with a used car because its depreciation rate plateaus after the first year; meaning you might actually be able to afford your dream car – just not a new one.Then there’s also the lower insurance rate for second-hand cars.

Shop Around

First, you need to decide which kind of second-hand car you’d like – hatch, sedan, SUV, etc. Read some reviews online at, visit a car dealership and read the Classifieds to get an idea of what’s out there.

After you’ve decided on a particular model or style, check out to see what the fair price of the car is so you’ll know what you can expect to pay. This website may also help you if you’re trading-in your old faithful for the new used car.

The Attitude

To find the right used car, you need to apply the same attitude you use for scoring a bargain find at thevintage markets or at Vinnies – it takes time and stamina yet by all means can be a fun process. And just like with market stall owners – be careful how much you reveal to the car seller. As Lady Gaga would say: keep a poker face and don’t show your hand – acting too eager makes the seller think you’re so blinded by your love of the car that they can jack up the price without you realising.


To be at your bargaining best, there are a few things you should do to investigate the car’s history.
First, go for a test drive – we can’t stress this enough. Make sure you try this baby before you fork out your hard-earned cash. Is it comfortable? Safe? How’s the vision? Does it suit your lifestyle?

Next, get the car checked by the NRMA (NSW), RACV (VIC) or equivalent car insurer in your state. They'll inspect the car and give you a condition report you can take back to the seller and use to negotiate the price. If you don't want to do this, ask a mechanic to look over the car and do some basic checks yourself (e.g. are all the lights, windows and locks working? Does the car get hot too quickly? Turn the radio down and listen out for rattles. Is there lots of smoke coming out the exhaust,

And it’s not just the car itself that may have a history – sometimes there can be a faulty owner who still owes money on the car that could become your debt. Make sure you find out if there are any outstanding debts on your dream car by calling your state’s transport authority and quoting the car’s model and registration details.

A few other key boxes to tick in negotiating the price can include:
* How many kilometres has it done?
* How many services has it had? (Ask for service history records)
* How much registration does it have left?
* Is there any damage to the car?
* Are the mechanics in good order? Is there anything that needs to be fixed?
* Is it still covered under warranty? There’s usually some kind of warranty when you buy from a used car dealership.
* Do they accept trade-ins (if you want to use your current car as ‘cash’)?
* How safe is it? Weigh it up at
* How environmentally friendly is it? Find out at

Once You’ve Bought It

Before you sign for the delivery or pick-up of the car, inspect it in broad daylight to make sure that there are no dents or scratchesthat weren't there before and that the car is exactly as it’s described in any written contracts you may have signed.

Check that the odometer number (how many kilometres it’s done) is reasonable to when you bought it and everything is working like before (lights, electric windows, locks, etc.) Also, there should be a car manual, service book, jack and spare tyre somewhere.
Ensure the appropriate paperwork has been done (contact the car authority in your state for details of what’s required).


You have to register your new car in your name (or switch over registration for used cars that are registered). The procedure can vary from state to state, so contact your state’s transport authority for all the information.

Some states require sellers to have a ‘Roadworthy Certificate’ before they sell a used car. Again, check with your transport authority for the procedures in your state...

NSW: Road Transport Authority (RTA), 13 22 13,
VIC: Vic Roads 13 11 71,
QLD: Transport Queensland, 12 23 80,
TAS: Transport Tasmania, 13 11 71,
SA: Transport SA, 1300 360 067,
WA: DPI, 13 11 56,
ACT: Rego Act, 13 22 13,
NT: Northern Territory Transport Group, (08) 8924 7216,

Happy hunting!

For more female-friendly car advice, head to

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