Buying A Used Car – Your Complete Guide

How to find and buy the best car for your needs

Whether you’re finally graduating off your L plates or you’re looking to upgrade, buying a car can be an equally exciting and challenging time. There are many factors to consider when purchasing a vehicle, and a lot of thought needs to go into the process so you don’t end up unhappy with the end result.

Following our guidelines for buying a used car, you can avoid disappointment and find the best vehicle according to what your individual preferences and driving needs are!

Step 1. Work out a plan for your existing car

This won’t apply to everyone, but for those with an existing vehicle it’s important to start thinking about a plan of action for it. If you are in a financial position to have two vehicles that is fine, but if you’re going to depend on the money from selling your car to buy your new one, then you’ll need to put in some research.

It’s not always practical to sell your old vehicle before getting your new one, but you will still be able to shop around online or talk to car buyers about the worth of your existing car. This will give you an indication of how much you will be able to make from selling it, and allow you to more accurately budget in how much you can spend on your new one.

Step 2. Sort that budget out

There is no point in jumping headlong into a car commitment without making sure you have the financials first. A lot of people look at the upfront costs of the car – aka what the seller is asking for – and think, “that’s manageable”.

But you’ve really got to take into consideration all the other costs involved with buying and owning a car, too. There are upfront costs not always calculated into the selling price of the vehicle, like registration transferal fees and inspection costs (see Step 4). There’s also ongoing costs, like the annual registration (the cost of which varies between states and territories), services, fuel, repairs and maintenance, and anything else that might crop up. On top of all that, are also considerations like insurance, which can really add up for young people in particular.

Make sure you think about all this while deciding on the overall maximum amount you’d be willing to spend on your new car.

Step 3. Start shopping around

Now for the fun part. With so many avenues of ways to buy a used car, including online, through auctions, and at car yards, finding options isn’t difficult. It’s important to be equipped with a few “must have” things you’re looking for in a car, as long as they’re reasonable within your budget range.

That can be anything from wanting four doors because you’ll be commuting a lot of people, through to purchasing a car with a focus on fuel economy due to the distances you’ll need to drive. While it can be tempting to put all the focus on the look of the car, make sure you have a practical approach to it as well!

Once you’ve settled on the best kind of vehicle for you, you can start doing research on the average value of your favourite cars. While this will vary slightly on factors such as mileage, amount of registration left, and condition of the car, it’s important to understand the average worth to ensure you don’t end up paying too much.

Step 4. Do your due diligence

It can be easy to fall in love with a vehicle and get carried away, but it’s important to still do your due diligence when you think you’ve found “the one”. Unless the vehicle owner is able to provide you with documentation on the condition history of the vehicle, including recent information, it is well worth your while and money spending a few hundred dollars on an inspection.

As long as the vehicle owner agrees to it, you can have a mechanic look over the vehicle and let you know how likely it is you’ll be running into trouble soon. While no car is going to be perfect, you can get an indication of whether you’re going to spending more money than it’s worth on maintaining this car by having a professional run their eyes over it.

Step 5. Stick to your guns in terms of maximum price

Most private vehicle owners and caryards will be willing to negotiate on the cost a bit – in fact they’re probably expecting it. The key is to find the line between offering an insultingly low price and paying more than you’re comfortable with.

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