December 16

Buying a Used Car Checklist

used car

Buying a used car isn’t quite as simple as bargain hunting at the thrift shop or scoring a good deal on Gumtree. Good quality used cars still demand a high price tag, so it pays to do your research.

Before Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a great way to save money. But it’s important to do your research ahead of time and know what to look for to avoid any potential problems down the road. There are a lot of factors that you need to take into account before making your purchase. Here are a couple of things to consider before buying a second hand car.

Your Budget

Before you even start looking at cars, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Don’t just think about the purchase price of the car; also factor in things like insurance, gas, and maintenance. It’s important to have a realistic idea of what kind of financial commitment you’re willing to make before you start shopping around.

The Car’s History

When you’re looking at used cars, it’s important to find out as much as you can about the car’s history. How was it driven? What kind of maintenance has it had? Is there anything wrong with it that would need to be fixed?

A Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) check is also a good precaution as it will let you know if the vehicle you are considering buying has been previously written off, stolen or has money owing on it. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision about whether or not the car is right for you.

Your Needs

Think about what you need in a car. Are you looking for something that’s fuel-efficient? Are you looking for a certain type of engine? Do you need a lot of space? Once you know what your needs are, you can start narrowing down your search to find the perfect car for you.


When thinking of what car to buy, you should also consider how safe it is. Check car safety ratings so you can identify and choose safer second hand cars.

Get a Loan

If you’re financing your used car purchase, it’s important to know what kinds of loans are available and which one is right for you. Some loans may have higher interest rates or shorter terms than others. It’s also important to compare rates from different lenders before choosing one. Make sure to get pre-approved for a loan before you start shopping for cars. This will give you an idea of how much money you have to work with and what kind of interest rate you’ll be paying. It’s always better to be prepared before heading into negotiations with the seller.

Have the Vehicle Inspected

Before you buy a used car, it’s always a good idea to have a mechanical inspection. They will be able to tell you if there are any major problems with the car that could end up costing you a lot of money down the road. It’s worth spending a little bit of money upfront to avoid any costly surprises later on.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

Want to know exactly what to look for when buying a used car? Read our buying a used car checklist to help you spot the difference between a gem and a lemon.

1. Check the engine

The engine is the workhorse of any car. As such, it should be given serious attention during an inspection. Without a good quality engine, even the shiniest Lamborghini can be an absolute washout.

For this reason, it’s best to get the engine checked by a qualified mechanic. This is generally the final step. Before you commit to an engine check, here are some other key things to pay attention to when buying a used car.

2. Leaks

When inspecting a used vehicle, look under the frame to see if you can spot any signs of leaks. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if you do see a small pool of liquid or a few drops of oil. However, it does pay to know about any leakage issues before you commit.

3. Head gasket

Set between the upper and lower parts of the engine, the head gasket plays a critical role in engine performance. It stops oil and coolant from entering the cylinders and can cause major issues if it malfunctions.

A quick look at the head gasket will give you an idea of whether it’s in good condition. Remove the oil cap and look for light brown or cream-coloured sludge. This is a tell-tale sign of a blown head gasket and a major red flag when it comes to buying a second-hand car.

used car

4. Oil check

Oil checks are a common part of car maintenance and shouldn’t be overlooked. A simple glance at the dipstick can tell you a lot about the overall condition of the car. Dark and dirty oil is a bad sign and typically indicates poor car maintenance by the previous owner.

5. Bodywork

A keen eye and good attention to detail can reveal plenty of clues when buying a second-hand car. Check out the bodywork for a better idea of a car’s history. A replaced panel could indicate the car has been in a serious accident.

Similarly, a car that looks fantastic on the outside, but has red dust engrained under the wheel rims and inside the seat covers may have been on a year-long road trip around Australia. Don’t be scared to ask questions to get a better idea of a used car’s history.

6. Exhaust smoke

As you pull out of the lot for your test drive, ask a friend to keep an eye on the colour and consistency of the exhaust. Excessive smoke indicates an issue that needs to be looked into. For example, blue smoke suggests the engine is burning oil, while white smoke can indicate a blown head gasket.

used car

7. Clutch and gearbox

If you’re purchasing a manual vehicle, take the clutch and gearbox through their paces before buying. This step is all about how the car feels when you shift through gears and find the clutch biting point.

Even if you’re test-driving an automatic car, you should still be able to get a good idea of how smooth or rough the gear changes are. Resistance, grinding noises and sticky clutches are all issues that should be investigated before buying a second-hand car.

8. Interiors

Few things give more away than a car’s interior. Pay attention to the condition of the dashboard, upholstery, steering wheel, side bolsters, roof lining and accessories like air conditioning, windscreen wipers and power windows. If the car is looking a little tired, but the mileage is relatively low, it might be a good time to question the seller’s honesty about mileage.

9. Documentation

A solid paper trail can offer great peace of mind when purchasing a used car. Ask the seller for proof of servicing and repairs. This builds a good foundation for negotiating a better price. You should also carry out a comprehensive vehicle history check to uncover any red flags or need-to-know issues.

With registration papers, make sure that the VIN, date of manufacture, engine number and number plate match.

What to Do After Buying a Used Car in Australia

Get an insurance quote

If you don’t already have auto insurance, now is the time to get it. And even if you do have auto insurance, it’s always a good idea to compare rates and see if there is a better option out there for you.

Make sure the registration papers are in order

Once you have your new car, be sure to transfer the title and registration into your name as soon as possible. You’ll also want to keep your proof of insurance paperwork in the glove box at all times so that you can easily access it if you ever need it. Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to keep copies of important maintenance records somewhere safe (like in a folder or binder) so that you can reference them if necessary.

Consider an Extended Warranty

One thing to keep in mind when buying a used car is that it may not come with a manufacturer’s warranty. If this is the case, you may want to consider purchasing an extended warranty. An extended warranty can help cover the cost of repairs if something goes wrong with your car down the road. Getting an extended warranty also provides additional coverage on radio, air conditioning, battery, tyres including the spare, jack and tools that are often not covered by a statutory warranty.

Where Is the Best Place to Buy a Used Car

There are a few places to start your search for a used car. You can start looking for and buying a used car through:

  • Private Sale
  • Auction
  • Motor Dealers
  • Online

Depending on your state, regulations for the sale of used cars can be different. When buying a car in Queensland, if the car has travelled less than 160,000 km and is less than 10 years old, there is a three-month or 5000km (whichever happens first) statutory warranty. However, if the car has travelled more than 160,000 km and is more than 10 years old, there is only a one-month or 1000km (whichever happens first) statutory warranty. There’s also a one-day cooling off period after you signed the purchase agreement. Cancelling the contract must be done in writing. However, the protection of a state government statutory warranty is only available through the purchase of a dealer or broker and not through private sellers.

Read more about whether you should choose a car broker or a private seller here.

Car Broker Brisbane

Do you need help finding the best-used cars in Brisbane?

There are three main reasons why using a car broker can be helpful when buying a used car. First, brokers have access to more vehicles than the average consumer. This means that they can help you find rarer or harder-to-find models that fit your specific needs. 

Second, brokers have extensive experience negotiating with sellers and know how to get the best price possible on the vehicle. 

And finally, working with a broker takes away a lot of the stress associated with buying a used car. Once you’ve found the perfect car, your broker will take care of all of the paperwork and arrange to finance if necessary. All you have to do is sit back and relax knowing that everything is being taken care of by an expert. And, if there are any issues with the vehicle after you’ve made your purchase, your car broker will be there to help resolve them.

Want to experience this holistic service for yourself? Contact The Vehicle Broker for professional negotiation, detailed research and vehicle sourcing.