Top tips for buying a used car and avoiding a lemon

Buying a used car can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know your brake belt from your diff, your chassis from your gasket.

You've done your research and have your heart set on what looks like a great car. But are you still worried that you might be taking home a lemon? It's a pretty common concern.

To help protect you and your hip pocket, our friends at Consumer Affairs Victoria tell us that there are some important things to know when you buy a used car.

First things first

Used car sellers have to tell you whether they have the right to sell you the used car and if it's ever been written off. Don't take their word for it, check this for yourself at the Personal Property Securities Register.

It's also good to know that there are differences in protections depending on whether you buy from a licensed car dealer or you buy privately.

Buying from a used car dealer

If you buy from a licensed dealer you have two main protections:

1. The cooling-off period

If you buy in the heat of the moment but then get cold feet, you have three days to change your mind. During this time you can walk away from the contract, although you should expect to lose some of your deposit. However, if you take delivery of the car within the three-day period, you might have to waive your right to cool off.

2. The warranty

If you buy a used car that is less than 10 years old and has done less than 160,000 kms, it will be covered by a statutory warranty. Within the warranty period the dealer has to repair any faults that are covered. Want to know how long the warranty lasts and what it covers? Read more here.

Buying privately

You get less protection when you buy from a private seller. They don’t have to give you a cooling-off period or a statutory warranty, so for your own peace of mind you might want to have the used car inspected by an independent and qualified mechanic before you buy it.

Before you drive away

So you’ve taken the plunge and decided that you’re ready to buy. Make sure you:

  • get a current roadworthy certificate from the seller
  • get a transfer of registration, which you and the seller have signed
  • send these to VicRoads within two weeks!

Need more help? Read buying cars guides

This information relates to laws in Victoria, Australia.

This page was last updated on January 18, 2017