Articles and Guides.

Secondhand Cars Guide

Secondhand car parked in a car dealership with price marked on the windscreen

Buying a car is a big investment. Whether it’s brand new or secondhand, there’s a few things you should know before taking the plunge.

If you’re in the market for a secondhand car, but you’re not quite sure where to start, we've put together a handy guide complete with tips for buying and a used car checklist.

The benefits of buying a secondhand car

When it comes to secondhand cars, there’s often a stack of benefits to buying used, so long as you dodge the lemons.

Firstly, buying a secondhand car is a great way to save a few dollars. Secondhand models are generally more affordable than the latest model to hit the market, especially with the recent car shortages that we’ve experienced over the past couple of years.

Secondly, when you buy secondhand, you avoid the bulk of the depreciation that hits as soon as your brand new ride leaves the dealership for the first time. On average, new cars lose around 30% of the value within the first three years, but you can dodge this when you buy a near new used car.

Thirdly, when you buy a secondhand car you can bypass the hidden on-road costs and taxes that come with buying a new vehicle. Most Australian car makers list their car prices excluding on-road costs, which can make for a bit of a shock when it comes time to finally pay for your new set of wheels. On-road costs vary depending on what state you live in, the type of engine in the car and whether you live in the city or the country. Generally speaking though, you’ll be up for stamp duty, dealer delivery, registration, and compulsory third party (CTP) insurance, although this is generally included in the registration fee.

Tips for buying a secondhand car

With so many different makes and models on the secondhand car market, it can be tricky to know where to start if you’re not entirely sure what kind of car you’re after. Here’s a few tips to help you better navigate the secondhand car market.

1. Settle on a budget

Do you have the cash on hand to buy a car outright or will you need to get finance? If you need to take out a loan to buy your next ride, then try shopping around for the best finance deals.

2. Do your research

Know what car you’re after? Have a look online to see how much the make and model you’re interested in costs. It’s also worth having a look at other comparable models to see what they’re going for so you know how much it’s worth and if you’re getting a good deal or not. Be sure to factor in the year and mileage too.

3. Check your car’s emissions

If you’re interested to know how your potential car stacks up in terms of emissions, check out the Government’s Green Vehicle Guide. Here you can view the top performing and selling vehicles in terms of emissions and you can also run some comparisons if you’ve got a few potential vehicles on your radar.

4. Inspect the vehicle

Once you start getting down to the pointy end, you should inspect the vehicles you’re interested in. Meet the current owner and get to know why they’re selling. Have a look at the car and even take it for a test drive. If there’s something seriously wrong with the car, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pick up on it when you take it for a spin.

If you’re not quite sure what to look for, check out our secondhand vehicle checklist below.

5. Book in for a professional inspection

Let’s face it, most of us aren’t car fanatics or qualified mechanics, so if you’d prefer a professional to give the car a once over for you, then book in for a pre-purchase inspection. They’ll be able to tell you if the car’s in good nick.

A pre-purchase inspection will usually set you back around $130-$300, but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

6. Do a used car search

Although buying a secondhand car can be a great option, it does come with a few inherent risks. There’s a chance it could be stolen, written off or still have debt owing that you don’t want to inherit.

Luckily you can check all this with a Government PPSR search and it’ll only set you back $2 per search. You can do an initial search on the vehicle you’re interested in buying, but it’s worth doing a second search closer to the purchase time to make sure the vendor hasn’t taken out any last minute finance against the car before you take ownership.

7. Insure your car

Once you’ve finally bought your new ride, make sure you insure it. Check out Youi’s range of car insurance and choose from fully comprehensive, third party fire and theft or third party property only. Youi also has you covered for a Green Slip if you live in NSW or SA.

Secondhand car inspection checklist

If you’re not a revhead, it can be tricky to know what to look for when inspecting a vehicle to buy, here’s a few things to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • What’s the owner's reason for selling? Is the owner just upgrading or are they trying to get a lemon out of their garage?
  • Check the mileage? For obvious reasons, the less mileage the better but on average cars tend to rack up about 12,000kms annually. Check to see how the car stacks up in terms of its mileage.
  • Does the car have a regular service history? Check the service log book to see if it’s got regular servicing and maintenance records.
  • Is the car roadworthy? Check the VIN number on the car has a roadworthy certificate or safety certificate as it’s known in Queensland.
  • What’s the overall condition of the car like? Based on how the vehicle presents, does it look like the current owner has taken good care of the car?
  • Book in for a pre-purchase inspection. Some of this you can do yourself, but if you’re not confident then booking the car for a professional pre-purchase inspection is a great idea. A pre-purchase inspection should include:

    • Checking condition of car interior - check boot, upholstery, spare tyre, seat belts, sound system, windows, air conditioning, cameras, sensors and navigation systems,
    • Inspecting under the bonnet - battery, oil, coolant, fluid, general tubes and take note of how the car sounds when it’s on,
    • Checking condition of car exterior - tyres, paint, doors, lights and side mirrors,
    • Having a look underneath the car - chassis (especially for 4WDs), oil leaks and exhaust,
    • Looking for any evidence of previous accidents and repairs,
    • Checking any modifications are legal and have been registered if required.

If you’re on the hunt for a new car, buying secondhand can be a great alternative to buying new. Just make sure you’re doing your research to make sure you’re getting a reliable vehicle and not inheriting someone else’s junkbox. In need of insurance for your new ride? Have a look at Youi’s range of car insurance offerings.