Tips & tricks

Your checklist for buying a used car

Do you want to avoid the demand and long wait times for a new car? You can purchase a used car instead, but keep in mind what to look out for.

Buying a used car has never been easier. With online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and, you'll be able to find your new ride in no time. It's important to know what you're looking for and how to identify red flags, so you can avoid wasting your money or buying a car which could be unsafe.

Here's our checklist

Set your budget

First things first, work out what you’re happy to spend on a used car. This will help to narrow down what you're looking for and what best suits your needs.

You can use our handy car loan calculator to help work out your budget if you choose to take out a loan with RACT Finance.

Don't forget - there’s other costs to keep in mind like registration, insurance, petrol and regular servicing costs.

Consider your needs

Ask yourself where do you commonly drive? If you mostly drive in the city, a small car could be suitable, but if you do a lot of off-road or highway driving, a sedan or 4WD might be a better option.

It’s important to consider the interior as well. Do the seats fold flat? Is the boot big enough? If you carry passengers regularly, does it have four doors?

Go for a drive

It’s always a smart idea to take the car for a test drive (or two) before buying it. If you’re new to the road, bring an experienced driver with you to get a second opinion. If possible, go for a drive up hill to listen to the engine or even on a highway to test the acceleration.

Inspect for the unexpected

While everything may look good from the outside, it can be more difficult to tell what’s going on under the bonnet. No one wants to buy a car only to find out it needs costly repairs and maintenance. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an experienced mechanic inspect the car before you buy it. You can book a vehicle inspection online with RACT AutoServe.

Vehicle history reports are also a must-have before purchasing a used car. This will give you an idea if the car is under finance or has been previously written off or stolen.

The lower the better

The odometer can tell you a lot about a used car. If the car has driven a high number of kilometres it may be cheaper, but will have been exposed to more wear and tear. A good reference for the number of kilometres an average car travels in one year is 15,000 km.

Former corporate, government fleet or demo cars may be another option. These can often be found for sale via auction (try Pickles Auctions) or at local dealerships.

Safety first

Checking the ANCAP or used car safety rating is important when buying any car, new or used. The ANCAP safety rating system awards cars with a ranking of between one and five stars depending on their safety performance. You should also look out for curtain airbags, an anti-locking braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC), which help prevent the car from skidding.

Negotiate the price

It can be a daunting experience to get a fair purchase price when buying a used car. Do your research before and this way you’ll be able to negotiate a fair price with the seller.

You may find that prices for used cars have appreciated since the pandemic as supply hasn't kept up with demand for vehicles.