If you’re in the market to buy a second hand car, then doing the due diligence to make sure you don’t drive away in a bomb should be your top concern.
Don’t judge a book…
Take the time to do the research because two vehicles of the same make, model and age can have very different values and be in vastly different conditions.
Plus, you have to be sure it’s not stolen or financially encumbered, which means that the car may have some money owing on it, like a car loan.
This Car Buyers Guide by NSW Fair Trading has some great information to help you get started.
The price is right
Before you part with your cash, make sure your ‘bargain’, is actually that.
You need to confirm the car’s age, kilometres travelled, its service history and mechanical and body condition and then compare that against similar cars for sale to be sure you’re not paying too much.
It’s important to get as much information as you can from the owner and then to get it verified (more on how to do that later).
How to buy
Private sales are a common way of buying a used car however they can be risky, because they're unregulated and there’s limited protection - so you need to be extra careful with your checks.
If you’re buying online, the same rules apply.
It’s recommended to search the Australian Government Personal Property Security Register to help identify if a vehicle has been reported stolen or has money owing on it.
A dealer may be more expensive but they are a good choice if you want the protection afforded by law.
Buying through a dealer offers protections such as, a cooling off period, a warranty and a guarantee that the vehicle is free of debt.
Roadworthy and safety certificates
All states require the seller to provide a current safety or roadworthy certificate, which is a legal requirement when buying a registered vehicle.
A ‘roadworthy’ confirms that the vehicle meets minimum safety standards.
Check your State’s licencing and registration body for local regulations as they vary from state to state.
You should make sure the certificate is valid, and that any repairs noted have been completed by the seller.
Most of us don’t have the knowledge to tell if a car has been in an accident, has done more km’s than it appears to, or has a timing belt, which is likely to go in the next few months.
Getting a reputable mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection on the car is money well spent.
The Australian Automobile Association has links to your State’s motoring body, which can also provide vehicle inspection services and general advice.
Car history and financial checks
A car history report is a complete used car history that searches all States and Territory databases.
It uses the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) number, which is located on the registration papers and on the manufacturer’s plate in the engine compartment.
A car history report shows previous sales information, safety ratings, whether there has ever been an insurance claim against the vehicle, current valuation and registration details, and whether it’s ever been damaged or stolen.
Commercial providers such as Veda provide this check for around $35.00.
You can also download this free car buyers checklist from NRMA.