Mar 092023

Every year millions of Australian used cars are purchased privately direct from the owner. While this can often be the best way to achieve the best buy and bargains, it can also become very expensive in cases when you find out that the car has a number of problems and/or a previously unknown owner history.

First, research about your desired car. Check free classified ads, free car listings, and trade guides to get a good idea of car pricing and used car values. Car classifieds such as,,, and are excellent guides and resources for buying used cars privately.

Once you have decided on which used car you’d like to buy after your used car search, and have found a possible seller, then it’s time to Arrange for a car inspection, preferably at daytime. Of course, you’d want to inspect and scrutinize the used car carefully, so insist only on daylight.

Take a friend along with you, preferably someone knowledgeable about cars and their workings. If problems occur in the future it helps that you have a witness available to validate what was said.

Check that the used car for sale has not been ‘clocked’. The average and normal kilometre range is about 20,000 kilometres a year. Of course, most used car dealers replace the tyres. So if the used car has new tyres and you still can’t trust the odometer readings, ask the owner for details of the car’s servicing history.

Always go for a test drive. However, make sure that you are insured to do so. Iif the seller says that he has cover, ask to see his policy.

Carefully check the service log book. In particular, look for the chassis number, known as the vehicle identification number (VIN). This is usually located on a small plate on the driver’s door or in the engine bay. The absence of a VIN number strongly suggests that the car has assumed the identity of someone else, probably because it has been stolen before.

Consider Car Registration Check. This includes a full description of the used car, including engine size and date of first registration, so you can be sure of what you are buying. It will also tell you whether the used car has a finance agreement recorded against it, if the car has been written off, and whether the car has had any number plate or colour changes.

The power of silence in negotiations. The chances are that at some point you’ll enter into negotiations over the price. A good place to check for used car values and car pricings are at Have both a highest price and a target price in mind before entering into negotiations. If your two offers are some way apart, you try not to say anything. Used car dealers use this tactic all the time as people find silence uncomfortable. Try this and the seller will often suggest meeting half way, at which point you can propose meeting half way between your offer and the new offer, getting yourself a better deal.

Finally, if you really are interested in the used car, consider having it independently checked by a reputable garage or the RACV. Reputable sellers will understand this, so be wary of owners of used cars for sale who decline your request. It may be time to look elsewhere.


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