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How to Buy a Used Car

Buying a Used Car


You can help to make buying a vehicle safer by following these tips:

To protect yourself against fake and fraudulent advertisements:

To protect yourself against buying a stolen, encumbered or repairable write-off vehicle:

                            -  Vehicle Registration Status
                            -  Finance recorded against the vehicle
                            -  Whether the vehicle is reported as stolen
                            -  If the car is a
repairable write-off

If your State/Territory Road Traffic Authority can't provide you with these details or you would like further information on a vehicle then please consider contacting us about purchasing a Car History Report.

How to pay for a used car (Private seller)

Buying a used car from a private seller may be cheaper than buying from a car dealer or auction, but it offers less legal protection. For instance:


If you decide to buy, make sure the conditions of purchase are agreed upon, including the terms surrounding the payment of a deposit and its refund if a pre-purchase inspection does not meet your satisfaction.

If the car is subject to a financial agreement, verify the exact amount owing and how this is going to be paid out before you hand over your money. In some cases, the purchase price may not be enough to cover the money still owing on the car and the seller will need to top it up before it can be signed over to you. A genuine seller should not have any objections to these procedures when it also protects their interests and ensures that a sale will proceed as smoothly as possible.

Paying by cash

Cash is the safest form of payment. Or, as they say in the business, cash is king. However, there is some risk involved. If say the car is selling for $18,500, you may not feel comfortable holding such a large amount in cash. To mitigate the risk, ask the seller to meet you at your bank. This way you can hand them the cash on the spot (or deposit the cash into their bank account) while receiving the signed paperwork from the seller.

Paying by bank cheque
A certified bank cheque is the next best thing to cash, but the risk of fraud still exists. If the seller agrees to a bank cheque, you can hand it to them on the spot and receive your car and signed paperwork. Alternatively, you can ask them to meet you at your bank and verify that your funds exist. Always ask for a receipt with the seller's full details and make sure you have original versions (never photocopies) of everything when you hand over payment. The receipt should show the following:                                                     


  • your name

  • date of purchase

  • the amount you paid for it

  • the vehicle’s VIN or chassis number, and engine number

  • the seller’s driver’s licence, name and signature

  • check that the seller’s signature on the receipt matches the signature on the seller’s licence

Remember that the receipt is the only proof that you now own the vehicle. Although the Roads
and Maritime Services (RMS) certificate of registration shows only the person who takes responsibility for
the car, it does not prove ownership

Important: Recording the date you bought the car may protect you against any outstanding red light or speeding camera infringements.

You can also check out the
Buyer's Guide page for more detailed information.

"Our independent car inspections aren't expensive, theyr'e priceless"

Sydney Auto Inspections' mobile services are available throughout Sydney and the greater metropolitan areas, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Coff's Harbour.

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