The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car

We’ve gathered the most up to date and relevant information for Australians when it comes to buying a used car. We asked the experts and got top tips for buyers.

Introduction

Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be an excellent way of securing the car of your dreams without the price tag of a brand-new model. A well-looked-after used car that is only a year or two old typically affords better value for money than a new one, and if you are on a tight budget, buying an older used car can mean the difference between getting yourself mobile or not.

Types of Used Cars

A good starting point is looking over a general guide of the wide range of vehicle categories, models, and styles on offer.

 

Types of Cars 
Passenger Cars
  • Light
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Sports
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
passenger car
SUVs and People-Carriers
  • SUV-Small (Compact)
  • SUV-Medium
  • SUV-Large
  • SUV-Luxury
  • People-Carriers
SUV
Commercial Vehicles
  • Vans
  • Utes (2WD)
  • Utes (4WD)
  • Buses
  • Trucks
Bus

Factors in Choosing the Right Used Car for You

In addition to budget, your decision about which used car to buy will rest on a number of factors including the size of car you need; what you will use it for; and its condition, features, and safety attributes. The car’s brand and model are likely on your checklist – and you might even have a preferred colour.

Remember to take into account the cost of car insurance, which can vary widely from one model to another. Of course you will want to inspect your potential purchase first hand, so you will need to consider the location of the car’s seller.

 

Budget

When it comes to budgeting for your used car purchase, be sure to account for other costs, in addition to insurance, that come with car ownership. You will need to register your vehicle, manage the cost of its fuel, and budget for cleaning and regular maintenance.

According to Glass Guide, if you are struggling to find the right car at the right price. You can use a Vehicle Broker who has the expertise and industry contacts to source a particular vehicle.

There are usually opportunities to do get a better deal when Dealers have sales targets to hit. If buying from a Dealer, wait for the last week of the month before signing any agreement, as they would be keen to get the sale and offer you additional incentives to make it happen.

 

Vehicle Condition

Even vehicles of the same age can vary widely in their condition. A visual check gives the first clue, as a car that appears to be well-looked-after on the surface is more likely to have been taken care of under the bonnet, too. To be sure of this, however, you will need a full vehicle inspection.

Naturally, you will want to note the number of kilometres the car has covered, but it also would be good to find out the number of owners that it has had.

According to RACV, always test-drive the vehicle. Head for an 80km/h road to make sure the engine and transmission are functioning well and drive across a bumpy road or driveway to see how the suspension feels.

 

Safety Features in Used Cars

Different vehicles boast a wide variety of different safety features, so if safety is a key factor for you it is worth carefully researching how many safety components are included on the models you’re considering.

It is important to note both the model and the year of manufacture, as car manufacturers are changing and improving safety features all the time – even within the same vehicle model.

Before buying any vehicle – as noted in the “Inspections” section below – it is vitally important that you check all the vehicle’s safety features to make sure each is in full working order.

 

Used Car Brands

There is a wide range of vehicle brands on the market, each with its own unique features. Some are regarded as ‘aspirational’ brands that are sure to earn the admiration of your friends and family, while other brands are more practical, representing excellent value for money, and for many car buyers these two motivators are the largest factors in choosing a brand.

If your choice is aspirational, one of the best first steps in finding the car of your dreams is checking which brands and models retain their value the best.

For those looking for practicality and value, a good way to start your search is researching the reliability ratings to see which car manufacturers and models top the list.

For car buyers amongst both personas that wish to ensure their safety and the safety of others, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the main independent car safety organization in Australasia, rates cars based on various safety criteria.

 

Used Car Insurance

The cost of car insurance can vary widely according to a number of factors. Some of these will be personal to you, including your age, driving experience, and whether you have incurred any driving fines or convictions.

Other factors relate directly to the vehicle you are insuring. These will include the car’s manufacturer, model, age, specifications, and mileage, as well as security features such as alarms and immobilisers. Be prepared to shop around, as quotes can vary considerably from one insurer to another.

 

Seller Location

An in-person examination, including a visual check, test drive, and mechanical inspection, are all advisable when buying a used car. These are easier to carry out if the car is physically located close to where you are.

It is good to consider the practicalities of collecting your vehicle, as it is far easier to collect from a seller with a used car near you than it is to trek halfway across the state in pursuit of a cut-priced purchase.

Which Type of Used Car is Right for You?

To get an idea of what options are available, make a checklist of the factors and features that are most important to you, then search online to get an idea of the range of makes and models that match your unique needs and desires. Make a shortlist for easy comparison between one offering and another.

Review sites are an excellent source of information, so once you have narrowed down your choices to a short list of preferred car models, it is worth referring to reviews to learn more details about their features and benefits – as well as any and all negatives.

Where to Buy Your Used Car

You can purchase used cars from private sellers, dealers, and auction sites, and online classified ad sites such as Gumtree.

On Gumtree you can find a massive selection of vehicles of all makes and models through ads posted by both private parties and commercial auto dealerships.

 

Buying a Car:  Benefits of a Direct Purchase vs. a Dealership Purchase 
Purchase Type  Benefits Pitfalls
Buying Used Cars from Private Sellers
  • Prices are often lower than from a dealer.
  • You can speak directly to the owner and ask questions such as:

o   Whether they are the legal owners of the vehicle

o   What the car has been used for

o   Whether it has had any mechanical problems

o   Whether it has been in any accidents

o   Where it has been stored (for example on the street or in a garage)

 

  • The vehicle will not come with a warranty.
  • You may need to make your own checks regarding ownership.

 

Buying Used Cars from Dealerships
  • Used cars usually come with a warranty – typically 5,000 km or 3 months for vehicles under 10 years old, though this can vary by state or territory and car model, age, and mileage.
  • A dealer will have a wide range of vehicles to test drive.
  • You may be able to negotiate a partial exchange for the value of your current vehicle.

 

  • You often will pay a premium to cover the dealer’s overhead costs and your vehicle warranty.

Safety Certificates

If you are buying your used car directly from a private seller, certain states or territories require them to provide a safety certificate. Safety certificates are required in:

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Queensland
  • Victoria

 

Safety certificates are not required for privately sold vehicles in:

  • NSW
  • Northern Territory
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Western Australia

 

Do note, however, that if the car has been modified or you will be transferring it between states, a safety certificate may still be required.

Vehicle Inspections on a Used Car

Inspecting your used car prior to purchase is an important part of the process. Pictures are no replacement for viewing a vehicle first hand and driving it yourself, so do make the time to inspect your chosen car or van in person. It is advisable to have the car assessed by an independent motoring organisation or a local mechanic for any visible or potential problems.

Here are some handy hints for carrying out a car inspection:

  • Always view the car in daylight.
  • Check for dents, scratches or rust on the bodywork.
  • Look out for signs of welding, which may indicate that the vehicle has been damaged in a collision.
  • Check the oil level – plenty of oil indicates that the owner has taken good care of the car.
  • Ensure the tyres are in good condition.
  • Check that the front wheels align perfectly with those at the rear – misalignment can indicate a twisted chassis.
  • Make sure the seatbelts and all other safety equipment are in full working order.
  • Start the car from cold.
  • Take it for a test drive, checking steering, braking, gears, clutch.
  • Trust your instincts. How does it look and feel? If you have reservations, they are probably well founded!

 

If you are buying privately, ensure you visit the seller at their home address, and that this address is the same as the address on the registration certificate.

There are several other items you can do yourself, such as checking that the car has a roadworthy certificate and that there is no money owing on it. Cross check the details on the registration certificate against the VIN, chassis, and engine numbers to be sure they match.

How to Buy a Used Car on Gumtree

Gumtree offers a very wide range of vehicles to choose from and is a popular source for those looking to buy the best used car for the lowest price. For an idea of the full range of used cars on offer, simply search for ‘used cars’.

Download the Gumtree mobile app to easily find the right car for you and when you have the right car in mind, save your car search with Gumtree Saved Search to receive a weekly notification of specific cars being listed near you.

To find a used car near you, search by city, state or area, for instance ‘used car, Perth’. You can hone your search by selecting a specific model, such as a Ford Focus, or by searching for a certain type like a convertible.

ford focus

Gumtree lists thousands of used cars from a variety of individual sellers and dealerships across the country. If you are buying a used car, be sure to carry out sufficient checks to satisfy yourself as to its ownership and condition. Make your selection well and you will be driving the car of your dreams for many years to come.