Used car buying guide

Buying a secondhand car can be a minefield. Read our tips and learn how to avoid disaster.
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03.Dealer, auction or private sale?


Buying from a dealer is usually more expensive than buying privately. However, there are advantages:

  • In some states and under certain conditions, they must provide warranties (see Rights and responsibilities).
  • They must guarantee there's no money owing on the car.
  • You can often trade in your old car.  


While you might be able to pick up a bargain at an auction, you really need to know about cars and what they're worth. You usually can't arrange for an inspection or even a test drive. So you'll be relying on visual checks. Types of auction vary from state to state — check with the auction house regarding warranty and money owing.

Private sales

Buying a car privately is usually cheaper than buying from a dealer. However, you have to rely a lot more on your own judgment as you won't get any protection, such as a statutory warranty. You can have it inspected by your state's motoring organisation, though. And you can check whether there's any money owing on the car by calling the vehicle title registry or REVS in the state the car's registered in - see Rights and responsibilities for contact details.


Car markets bring private sellers and buyers together in one place, so from a legal point of view they're the same as buying privately. However, they allow you to look at a number of different cars without having to drive all over town. You probably won't be able to have the car inspected on the same day, but you can usually go for a test drive.


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