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How to Buy a Used Car




Buying a used or brand new vehicle is a big decision to make. Not typically cheap, it is probably the next most valuable asset for many, following the home. You wouldn’t want to spend your hard-earned cash on a vehicle that is not up to standards and finding out that it creates more problems than it solves. Ideally you would want to purchase a vehicle that doesn’t need much attention and wouldn’t leave you in a rut down the street.

For those that cannot afford brand new cars, used cars are a great alternative. But it can be a little bit more complicated of a process. It is not a decision that happens regularly, but takes much consideration, research and time if you want the best out of your money and time.

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: CC Wiki (Helgi Halldorsson)


There are an overwhelming range of cars, bikes, and SUVs to choose from, limiting your scope, choose what is within your budget, and what the vehicle would be ideally used for. If the car is for the family, ideally high safety ratings and features are regarded. You can check for vehicle safety ratings at ANCAP.

Many buyers forget other fees and costs associated to the purchase of the vehicle. It could be insurance, repairs, maintenance, and running costs. Compare options and have finances or car loans in check and ready.

Check the value of the model you are after and compare it to the market to see if the price is justified. If they are selling it for cheap, question and be cautious, if they are selling it high, why? Is it that immaculate?

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: Pexels (Pixabay)


For those in the market for used cars they can purchase it from a registered dealer, auction house or privately owned. Each seller have their ups and downs.

Automotive Dealer

Generally more expensive than a private sale, it is typically advantageous as the registered dealer has to follow guidelines and regulations, and has a reputation to uphold.

  • Customers can test drive, inspect and have the rights to all the necessary information.
  • In addition, warranty may be offered for some vehicles, just confirm what parts the warranty covers.
  • Depending on the state, dealers can also offer a cooling-off period where buyers can cancel the deal with no big penalty fees. This cooling period ends when you take it home. You can take the vehicle to another mechanic.
  • Dealers are advantageous as well because they can do trade-ins. Taking the customer’s older car for a discount or set value.

Upon inspection, there is a lot to check, the exterior of the vehicle could be from dents, marks, tires, batteries, fluids, chassis, paint, spare tire, panel gaps, oil leaks, upholstery, lights, safety features and windows.

While test driving listen and lookout for idling, exhaust, fumes, irregular noises as well as brake/acceleration feel.

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: CC wiki (Rept0n1x)

Auction House

Auctions can be a hit and miss, and is a fast process.

  • The auctioneer must state whether the used vehicle has any warranty or written-off.
  • Test driving the car before bidding is not typically common
  • You are allowed to inspect the car to some extent, purely relying on visual checks.

Buyers may also be lucky enough to find used cars that do not have a high reserve cost or not many bidding competition.

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: Flickr (Car Leasing Made Simple)

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Privately Owned

When buying a used vehicle privately, you run the risk of not knowing all the details about the car, and typically only have the sellers information to work with. A private sale can be definitely cheaper and you could definitely grab yourself a good bargain. But keep in mind that there are people out there that do try to mask up some important details.

  • There is no cooling-off period and at times no warranty.
  • Buyers must do their own research. Researching and inspecting a vehicle is the most crucial step. It can make a huge difference to your finances and even safety. Be wary of vehicles that is still on finance, has been stolen, written-off in any way, or unknown damages.
  • Try to make the inspection at their home address. Best done during the day time with good lighting with additional questions about the vehicle’s history, previous owners, how the kilometers were compiled, additional modifications and reason for selling.
  • Inspect the car thoroughly. Use car buyers can follow the this checklist. This checklist goes through the ins and outs of the car, as well as the buying process. But if you are still unsure about the inspection, you can get yourself an external inspector either by taking the car to a local mechanic or calling out a mobile car inspection like MyNRMA. Just to get that extra peace of mind is definitely worth it down the line when making a large purchase decision.
  • In addition to a typical car inspection, it is advised that buyers do extra car history research after the car inspection on the used vehicle. The car history report includes a Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVs) check, stolen vehicle check, written-off check, Odometer check, and other details that are important. In conjunction with the history report, checking the log book can also see if there are any flaws in their service history.

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: Pexels (


Don’t sign until you are truly happy with the car and costs. Negotiating with dealers or privately owned sellers is normal. There is nothing wrong with bargaining, just don’t be suggesting unrealistic low prices. If you do identify faults you can make adjustments according to any faults that have not been mentioned. They can only either decline or accept and could possibly suggest a price closer to the asking price.

If buyers are serious, they can place a deposit on the vehicle to hold, preventing the seller from selling it to anyone else, giving extra time to consider. This is only when you are truly serious about the deal. The price for this can be of any value, lower the better as there is no set guidelines. You can get the right to be refunded if the car fails any further inspection report.

How to Buy a Used Car

Image: Flickr (State Farm)


After you have agreed on a price and signed off, make sure that you have the car registered with insurance straight away, and do not drive anywhere until it is arranged. This can be easily done over the phone with any insurance company. The last thing you would want to happen to your newly acquired set of wheels is to get into an accident with no insurance.

There is also a period after the date of purchase to get your car registration transferred, you can do this at the local motoring registry.

Tip: Change all fluids immediately – engine oils, transmission, transmission, brakes and engine coolant. You do not know when the last time they did the changeover or what quality of fluids they had in it. Just an extra safety precaution.

Buying a brand new car depreciates the moment you step on it, so why not save yourself thousands by buying a used car. It only takes a bit more time and research if you don’t want any unwanted surprises that could possibly save you thousands. There are used cars out there that are still in excellent condition.

Author Bio: Recently having moved from the States to Sydney, Olivia spends her time exploring the great hidden gems of New South Wales. Enjoying the golden sandy beaches and lush forests of the Land down under, she occasionally writes for Great Lost. In hope of motivating, learning and informing others.

Than you so much Olivia for a great post!! I will definitely refer to this when it comes time to purchase my next vehicle!!

Do you have tips or experiences on buying a used vehicle? Please leave a comment to share with us!!


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