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5 Tips for Buying a Used Car

Our ultimate guide to buying a used car

Buying a car is a big investment, it pays to get it right!

Most of us don’t have the luxury of buying a brand-new vehicle and buying a used car can be risky… knowing what to look out for can get you the ultimate value for money. Go from zero to hero with our 5 essential tips for buying a used car.

1. First things first… PPSR check!

This is an important step in assuring that your potential new vehicle is legitimate. Who wants a vehicle that has been written-off, stolen, unregistered, mis-identified or tied up in debt?

There is nothing worse than unknowingly buying a vehicle that has had a major accident and is deemed unsafe for public road use or not being able to register the vehicle in your name because the vehicle is financially encumbered or even worse stolen. 

A PPSR check identifies whether you should continue pursuing the vehicle or move on and keep looking.

PPSR reports are an easy inexpensive way to save yourself a lot of drama. There are a number of PPSR providers you can search online, or you can get an instant PPSR check with us for only $6.95.

Black Holden viewed from behind
Wheel of Audi
Man inspecting a car's wheel
Black Holden viewed from behind
Wheel of Audi
Man inspecting a car's wheel

2. Is the car being sold with rego? And is it roadworthy?

Check with the seller if the vehicle is being sold with rego or “As Is” (unregistered). A car without registration can add a hefty price tag on top of the cost of your vehicle. A PPSR starts you off but if the car is being sold unregistered, ensure you have the vehicle roadworthy inspected whether organised by the buyer or the seller. Buying a used car without a safety certificate is super risky as there may be expensive problems that prevent the vehicle from meeting the appropriate government safety requirements.

If the vehicle is being sold with registration, the seller is obligated to provide a valid roadworthy/safety certificate.

It is wise to organise your own roadworthy inspection or have an authorised examiner’s second opinion as defect items are often overlooked or misinterpreted by inspectors (usually if the roadworthy has been done by a friend, neighbour, an inexperienced apprentice or just a favour). Many inspectors are by the book, but who are you to know?

A second opinion will identify missed items which will work in your favour regarding the safety of the vehicle and price negotiations. For example, the value of any items that require repair or replacement can be negotiated against the original asking price.

3. Research, research, research!

Acquiring knowledge about similar vehicles through online searches provides a jumping off point for negotiations and will limit the seller’s ability to sell you an overpriced car. Search the same make and model, year, kilometres driven and condition.

Investigate earlier and older models and their pricing. This can give you a good sense of the value of the vehicle and what it may be worth if you upgrade in future.

There are platforms out there that give you an indication of value, although these usually do not reflect the current market as the data is only collated after the vehicle has been sold. While they provide handy info, they should be used as a guide only.

Man looking up vehicle pricing
Wheel of silver Porsche
silver Porsche viewed from side
Man inspecting a car engine

4. When was the car’s last service?

Service history is another big one to take into account and a logbook is worth a thousand words. A car should be serviced as per the manufacturer’s service schedule to maximise the life of the vehicle. Check the service books and if the service history is consistent and up to date. This can give you an indication of how the vehicle has been treated or neglected. If it hasn’t been serviced recently, chances are it might look like it’s in working order but there could be some large expenses coming your way.

  • Ask the buyer for the invoice of the car’s most recent service.
  • Call the mechanic who carried out the service and ask if there is anything about the vehicle that stood out to them or any major/ upcoming maintenance requirements.

5. Inspect the vehicle

While a valid roadworthy certificate will tell you whether the car is fit to drive or not, it doesn’t tell you all that much about its physical condition and what it is worth. Inspecting the vehicle before purchasing is essential. A detailed pre-purchase car inspection from someone who really knows their stuff can save you thousands of dollars. So what should they look out for?

Engine inspection

Key things to look for/factors to consider:

Ultimately, it is great to have someone with experience as your wingman. When it comes to your pre-purchase inspection, you have a few different options to choose from:


Option 1

Inspect the car personally (and NEVER transfer money prior to a physical inspection of the car). However, this might not always be possible depending on the car’s location, and unless you are an experienced mechanic it is unlikely that you’ll be able to accurately assess the condition of the vehicle anyway.



Option 2

Bring along a mechanic friend to inspect the vehicle with you – it is wise to have this professionally done. What is obvious wear and tear to a mechanic may be less obvious to someone who does not understand how the vehicle systems operate.



Option 3

Verifiinspect offer pre-purchase car inspections Australia wide. Our nation-wide network of mechanics offer quick, comprehensive and reliable mobile inspections to make your purchasing experience hassle-free. A friendly customer service team organise the inspection on your behalf and provide you with a detailed inspection report, usually within 24 hours.