By Lauren Reid
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Buying a used car can be exciting and daunting all at once, so here’s our list of the top six questions you should ask to make sure you’re getting the right car – and a good deal.
Question 1: What’s my budget?
Who to ask: Your bank balance, for starters. But it’s also worth doing some research to see what a fair price might be for the type of car you need.
On top of the sale price, you’ll have to pay a transfer fee, stamp duty and potentially rego and insurance, so factor these costs into your price limit.
Having a clear budget will help narrow down your search, making the process a little quicker and less overwhelming. It can also prevent you from being tempted by any add-ons dealers may offer, which are sometimes unnecessary.
Our Technical Advisory Service can give you an idea of average prices in the market, and if you have a particular model in mind, they can tell you what you can expect to pay. Give them a call on 8202 4689 or send them an email to check.
Question 2: Should I trade in my old car or sell it privately?
What to do: Selling privately may result in you scoring a better price, meaning you’re better positioned to buy your next car.
However, it may take more of your time as you’ll have to take your own photos, write listings and respond to enquiries, and you may end up with the odd no-show or maybe even a scammer.
On the other hand, dealerships tend to offer you the minimum price they think they can get away with, but at least it’s less labour-intensive.
Question 3: Where should I buy from?
Where to go: This is a matter of personal preference and how confident you are about your knowledge of cars, but there are a few things to consider.
If you buy at an auction, you may end up with a cheaper price, but you won’t get a warranty and you often can’t test drive the car, which are major downsides.
Going through a dealership can be intimidating thanks to pressure from sales representatives, but it means you can get a warranty for the vehicle. They’ll often process the transfer for you too.
Read the fine print of any warranty you’re given, so you know exactly what it covers and how long it’s for. Dealers also have to guarantee there’s no money owing on the vehicle, that it’s roadworthy at the time of sale, and disclose if the car has previously been written-off or suffered significant damage.
There are even protections in place if you change your mind after the sale (see here for more details).
With private sales you’ve not only got more negotiating room, but the sellers are usually more eager to get rid of the vehicle. By meeting the previous owner you can get a feel for what they’re like and how they’ve treated the car.
Keep in mind you’ll be responsible for transferring the registration, and the seller will have to forward the disposal notice to Transport SA within 14 days of the sale. If you have a mySA Gov account, you can also do this online.
Question 4: How safe is this car?
How to tell: Many cars will be sold on the basis of their ANCAP safety ratings, but these only tell you about how safe the car was when it was new. Cars age differently, and features that were considered to be the ultimate in safety five or 10 years ago may have now been superseded.
That’s why it’s worth checking RAA’s Used Car Safety Ratings to compare how your picks stack up now. Head over here to find out more.
The number of serious faults found in used cars during RAA vehicle inspections last year.
Question 5: Is this a good buy?
Who to ask: Buying a car can be an emotional experience, but to avoid getting swept up in the excitement, it’s important to look critically at a car you’ve got your heart set on, so maybe take a friend or relative with you to be an impartial voice.
RAA’s vehicle inspection service can do pre-purchase inspections of the interior and exterior of a car you’re looking to buy.
Last year, our experts found an average of 10 faults every time they inspected a car, including a total of 178 faults across the year that were serious.
Our Total Care Inspections even check if the car has any money owing and whether it’s been written off or stolen in the past.
If you forgo an inspection though, make sure you check the car’s history online.
Question 6: Should I test drive it first?
Why you should: No matter who’s selling the car, we always recommend test driving it first. You might be able to pick up potentially costly faults by getting behind the wheel.
First of all, you’ll want to make sure it idles evenly and starts without any hard revving. Then listen out for any slapping, knocking or squeaking sounds, and check for oil or petrol smells, leaks or signs of overheating.
This is also your opportunity to check the controls and instruments inside the car are working. While you’re there, check the owner’s manual to make sure the car has been serviced regularly.
You can’t tell everything about a car just by taking it for a drive though, which is why getting an RAA vehicle inspection can save you hassle down the track.