9 Best Tips for Buying a Used Car

July 14, 2015 - 4 min read

What may seem like not a bit issue on the test drive could turn out to be a much bigger problem once the car is in your name. Learn how to avoid a lemon when buying a new car with our top 9 tips.

There’s nothing worse than paying thousands of dollars on a used car, only to realise you’re now the proud owner of a lemon. One of the benefits of buying a used car is saving money, but when you’re spending all your pay on mechanical bills, it completely defeats the purpose. Whether you notice a funny smell when taking it for a test drive or you can see a bit of rust when you lift the bonnet, there’s a number of things you need to be cautious  when purchasing a used car. Follow these tips to ensure your purchase isn’t a regretful one.


Take a friend

When it comes to inspecting a used car, two sets of eyes are better than one. By bringing a friend along—especially one with mechanical knowledge—you’re more likely to spot any hidden nasties.

Research the car

Some models have recurring problems, so be sure to do your research on the car and model itself. Check online and find out if if the make and model has a bad reputation.

Stick to your budget

When shopping, it’s important to give yourself a set amount of money and don’t let those pesky car dealers persuade you into overpaying. Money talks, so if you’re planning on getting a pre-approved loan, make sure you do so beforehand; this could save you thousands when bartering a price.

History checks

Whether you don’t want to have your new purchase repossessed due to outstanding finances or would like to know if it has previously been written off, it’s important to get a CarHistory report. This report costs only $36.95 and can give you a range of important information that will help make your decision a lot easier.

Inspection checklist

Accident or damage

Check the exterior of the car for any signs of hail damage. Also inspect the floor wells, doors and lower sills for red or other dark stains and dimpled or bubbled paint. Keep an eye out for any paint colour variations or for any loose panels that could indicate damage.

Under the bonnet

Check that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) matches that of the rego and look for any signs of illegal interference with the numbers. Make sure there’s no corrosion on the radiator or acid corrosion around the battery. The radiator coolant should be brightly coloured and the engine oil shouldn’t have a milky appearance—these signs could indicate a blown head gasket blown head gasket.

Check everything!

Sometimes the littlest things are the most expensive to fix; it’s crucial to check components like the lights, air-conditioning, electric windows and sound system are all working. Also, you want to make sure there’s a spare tyre, as well as a jack and tool kit.

Test Drive

While you’re driving, listen for any unusual sounds in the engine, transmission (gear changes), suspension (driving over bumps) and brakes. Ensure there is no smoke coming from the exhaust and that the engine, transmission and steering all work smoothly.

Get a pre-purchase inspection

If you want to tick all the boxes before you buy, it’s best to get a mechanic to perform a pre-purchase inspection. We’ve found you some of the best mechanics in NSW, who you can call for any car-related needs.

Need a mechanic in Wollongong?

Purely Mechanical

Mechanics in action, Purely Mechanical - Wollongong
Mechanics in action, Purely Mechanical – Wollongong

If you’re searching for a Wollongong mechanic you can trust, look no further than the talented team at Purely Mechanical. Servicing all makes and models, there’s no car the experienced mechanics here can’t attend to. Whether you want your suspension and steering maintained or need an expert eye for your pre-purchase inspection, you can rely on Purely Mechanical to do the job right. Located in Woonona, this family-run business even offers a pick-up and delivery service from Russell Vale to Thirroul.
Where: 502 Princes Hwy Woonona NSW

Need a mechanic in Tamworth?

Uphill Automotive

Friendly team, Uphill Automotive - Tamworth
Friendly team, Uphill Automotive – Tamworth

Finding a reliable mechanic in Tamworth is not easy, but with more than 45 years’ experience in the industry, you can count on Uphill Automotive to provide the service you need. Experts in all mechanical repairs—from brake and clutch repairs to logbook servicing and air-conditioner re-gassing—if your car is due for some maintenance or needs a repair, you know where to go. With friendly customer service and a nationwide warranty, you can have peace of mind knowing your vehicle is in the capable hands of the mechanics at Uphill Automotive.
Where: Dampier St Tamworth NSW

Looking for something a little closer to home? Find a local mechanic at Localsearch.