Buying a Second-hand Car

Information on how to buy a used car in Australia, with details on the documents required...

In Australia used cars can be purchased from car dealerships, private owners, online or at an auction. Some states/territories require any used cars for sale to have a safety certificate. These are: the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria.

In New South Wales, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia safety certificates are not needed before selling a second-hand car. They may, however, be necessary if the vehicle is to be transferred between states or if it has undergone modification.

Buying a car from a dealership

A guarantee of title, legal protection and a warranty is provided when purchasing a used car from a licensed dealership. The guarantee of title ensures that there is no money owing on the car. Legal requirements on the length of the warranty vary with each state. There may be no warranty for old or high mileage vehicles. Typical warranty periods are three months or 5,000 Km for non-commercial vehicles which are less than 10 years old and have covered less than 160,000 Km.

Buying a car privately, online or at an auction

There are a number of websites with classifieds for used cars. Some of the main ones in Australia include:

Popular websites with cars for sale from an auction include:

When buying a used car privately, online or at an auction, check that the person selling the car is free to do so. If the car is stolen, or if it is being used to secure a loan then the current owner is not free to sell it.

Each state and territory has a Register of Encumbered Vehicles or Vehicle Securities Register, which should be checked before buying a used car privately. These registers allow a buyer to confirm ownership of a car and find out whether the car is being used as a security.

To carry out an ownership check, the vehicle registration number, engine number and chassis number are generally required. To find a local register, see the links below:

Before committing to buying a car privately, ensure that the seller has a current certificate of registration and a safety check report which is no more than one month old. The details on both these forms should match the vehicle.

Prior to buying a car a mechanic or one of the Australian motoring organisations can check the car for any problems. Buying a car at an auction is often the cheapest way of getting a new car but it is also the riskiest. Auction houses must permit an inspection of the vehicle but most do not allow a test drive. A car purchased at an auction has no warranty.

The auction house is responsible for ensuring that the car is free to be sold and for providing a completed change of registration form. If the car is not registered, a safety check report no more than one month old should be provided confirming that the car is fit for registration.