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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04.Rights and responsibilities

Each state and territory has different regulations for the sale of used cars. For detailed information, call your fair trading or consumers affairs department on the number supplied.

Licensed dealers usually have to display a form on the car's dashboard or windscreen that provides some basic information such as the year of manufacture, odometer reading and warranty details. Dealers also have to guarantee there's no money owing on the car.

In most states and territories, they also have to provide a statutory warranty on certain used cars. However, this often excludes parts such as the radio, air conditioning or battery — make sure you clearly understand what's covered and what isn't.

Title register and debt (Australia-wide): PPSR at https://transact.ppsr.gov.au/ppsr/Home or phone 1300 007 777 (1300 00PPSR), or write to the ITSA National Service Centre, PO Box 1944, Adelaide SA 5001.

ACT

When you buy from a dealer, a car that's not more than 10 years old and hasn't travelled more than 160,000 km carries a three-month/5000 km statutory warranty.

When buying from a dealer, you're entitled to a cooling-off period of three days after you've signed the purchase agreement. If you want to cancel the agreement within the cooling-off period, you need to do so in writing, and the dealer can charge you $100 or 1% of the purchase price, whichever is greater.

Motoring organisation: NRMA, 13 11 22
Department of Fair Trading: (02) 6207 0400

Northern Territory

When you buy from a dealer, a car that's less than 10 years old and has travelled less than 160,000 km carries a three-month/5000 km statutory warranty.

Motoring organisation: AANT, (08) 8981 3837
Office of Consumer and Business Affairs: (08) 8999 1999

NSW

When you buy from a dealer, a car that's not more than 10 years old and hasn't travelled more than 160,000 km carries a three-month/5000 km statutory warranty. This doesn't apply to commercial vehicles.

There's a one-day cooling-off period once you've signed the purchase agreement, but only if you arrange credit with the dealer as well. If you withdraw from the deal within the cooling off period, the dealer can charge $250 or 2% of the car's value, whichever is less.

Motoring organisation: NRMA, 13 11 22
Department of Fair Trading: 13 32 20

Queensland

If the car has travelled less than 160,000 km and is less than 10 years old, car dealers in Queensland have to provide a 3-month, 5000 km statutory warranty. If the car has travelled more than 160,000 km or is more than 10 years old, there's a 1-month, 1000 km statutory waranty.
There's a one day cooling-off period once you've signed the purchase agreement. If you want to cancel the contract, you have to do so in writing and pay the dealer $100.

Both dealers and private sellers have to provide the buyer with a safety certificate.

Motoring organisation: RACQ, 13 19 05
Office of Consumer Affairs: 13 13 04

South Australia

When you buy from a dealer, a car that costs more than $6000 carries a three-month/5000 km statutory warranty. If it costs between $3001 and $6000, the warranty is two months/3000 km. Cars that cost less than $3000, are older than 15 years or have travelled more than 200,000 km don't have to carry a statutory warranty.

There's no cooling-off period once you've signed the purchase agreement.

Motoring organisation: RAA, (08) 8202 4600 (general); (08) 8202 4688 (inspection bookings)
Office of Consumer and Business Affairs: phone (08) 8204 9777

Tasmania

When you buy from a dealer, a car that's less than seven years old and has travelled less than 120,000 km carries a three-month/3000 km statutory warranty. This doesn't apply to commercial and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

There's no cooling-off period once you've signed the purchase agreement.

Title register and debt check: Vehicles Securities Register, 1300 851 225
Motoring organisation: RACT, 13 27 22 (general); (03) 6232 6300 (inspection bookings if in Hobart; different numbers elsewhere)
Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading: 1300 654 499

Victoria

When you buy from a dealer, a car that's less than 10 years old and has travelled less than 160,000 km carries a three-month/5000 km statutory warranty.

When buying from a dealer, you're entitled to a cooling-off period of three working days after you've signed the purchase agreement.

Both dealers and private sellers have to provide the buyer with a certificate of roadworthiness.

Motoring organisation: RACV, 13 72 28
Consumer Affairs: 1300 558 181

Western Australia

When you buy from a dealer, a car that costs $4000 or more, is less than 10 years old, and has travelled less than 150,000 km, comes with a three-months, 5000 km statutory warranty. If it costs $4000 or more, is between 10 and 12 years old, and has travelled between 150,000 and 180,000 km, it has a one-month, 1500 km statutory warranty.

There's no cooling-off period once you've signed the purchase agreement.

Motoring organisation: RAC of WA, 13 17 03
Consumer and Employment Protection: 1300 304 054

 

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