Booming second-hand car market leaves Australians out-of-pocket and overwhelmed

9 November 2021
  • Second-hand car prices have risen significantly, with 82 per cent of Australian second-hand car buyers also facing additional costs above the original purchase price when buying through a private seller.
  • New Allianz research reveals Australians find the process of purchasing a second-hand car privately overwhelming and confusing, despite countless hours researching.
  • To help Australians navigate the complexities of buying a second-hand car privately, Allianz has developed the Private Buyer’s Manual, an online resource to strip back the jargon and make the process more seamless.

Pandemic driven supply chain issues and surging prices have meant the second-hand car market is booming (Australian Used-Vehicle Prices Rise in First Quarter on Supply Concerns (PDF, 215 KB)) and becoming increasingly harder to navigate. According to new research from Allianz Australia, Australians are turning to second-hand cars more than ever before to try to save money (52 per cent) or be more sustainable (21 per cent), however as many as 1 in 5 (20 per cent) did not have a positive experience when purchasing a second-hand car.

Even though Australians spent an average of 22 hours doing their research, a staggering 97 per cent still experienced some form of confusion when opting to purchase a car privately. To add, 82 per cent of those surveyed who purchased through a private seller were slugged with additional costs, such as immediate mechanical repairs after purchase (29 per cent) or extra registration costs due to where they live (27 per cent), with nearly a third (29 per cent) paying over $700 and 1 in 5 (18 per cent) paying over $1,000 extra.

Throughout the buying process, surveyed Aussies were worried most about the car’s warranty (30 per cent) and whether it was safe to take a test drive with someone they didn’t know (19 per cent). Additionally, half (49 per cent) of those surveyed were concerned they’d bought ‘a lemon’, were questioning whether they were getting a good deal (39 per cent), or if they were purchasing from someone who was trustworthy and safe (38 per cent).

To help Australians navigate these complexities and more, Allianz has developed the Private Buyer’s Manual, a downloadable resource for Australians looking to purchase a second-hand car via a private seller. The manual contains useful information and tips to help buyers when purchasing a second-hand car – from the research phase, inspecting the vehicle through to purchase and insurance.

Allan Pease, Body Language Expert and behaviourist said, “Purchasing a second-hand car can be daunting and a number of Australians don’t necessarily know how to approach the sale. It is important to be confident and do your research so you can feel empowered to hold your own. Simple body language techniques such as knowing the questions you want to ask, smiling, avoiding contradictory body language signals and being conscious of your posture and gestures can empower you to make an informed decision and give you the confidence to negotiate a better price.”

According to the research, Australians also struggled with the technical aspects of the inspection process with nearly a third choosing to assess how roadworthy a vehicle was by how it looked (30 per cent) or trusting the seller on their ‘word’ (31 per cent). Alarmingly, Australians also missed key steps during the assessment phase, such as not organising a mechanics inspection (73 per cent), reviewing the car’s logbook (48 per cent) or checking if the car had been in any accidents (42 per cent).

Michael Winter, Chief General Manager, Consumer from Allianz Australia said, “At Allianz, we understand that purchasing a second-hand car can be overwhelming and confusing. When you add the additional layer of surging prices and supply chains pressures thanks to the pandemic, the complexities mount. While most of the nation is doing substantial research when buying a second-hand car, we’re finding most people still find the process confusing. We want to support our customers to make informed decisions beyond their insurance matters; this manual seeks to pull together the information needed when purchasing a second-hand car privately into one tangible resource.

It is important to support our customers to feel empowered by their purchase, regardless of whether they are buying a vehicle privately or through a dealer. While our Private Buyer’s Manual is a great resource to support Australians to make an informed purchase, it cannot safeguard the purchase itself. For any Australian who is concerned or experiencing difficulties, we recommend visiting a dealer to explore your options and to seek advice, as they provide on-the-spot information, transparency about the vehicle as well as supporting you on finance and insurance.”

The Allianz research also revealed half (50 per cent) of Aussies who purchased through a private seller leaned on others to help them determine if a car was roadworthy or in a good condition. Of those, nearly half (46 per cent) sought advice from a partner, friend or family member ‘who know about cars’. Despite 3 in 5 (60per cent) people spending countless hours doing research, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of those who purchased privately only considered getting their car insured after they had purchased the car and, for some, when it was too late, and they had been in an incident or accident (10 per cent).

For Australians looking to purchase a second-hand car, download our Private Buyer's Manual (PDF, 6.1 MB) or visit our Private Buyer's Manual page to potentially help you with your purchase.

Allianz tips for purchasing a second-hand car privately:

  • How to research the right car for you
  • What to look for at a private inspection
  • What to do when you’re ready to purchase

Understanding what to look for when buying a used car can be one of the hardest parts of the buying process. Our research has shown that many Australians buying a car privately don’t ask the right questions or make the right checks. In fact, according to Moody’s Analytics report Australian Used-Vehicle Prices Rise in First Quarter on Supply Concerns (PDF, 215 KB):

  • Inspect the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Key items to check include:
    • The seats, carpets, interior plastics for stains and damage.
    • Check the seat belts' locking mechanisms work, as these are the fundamental safety features.
    • Inspect the panels for accident damage. Sometimes it’s not always obvious, so look for larger than normal gaps between panels, such as around the bonnet and bumpers.
  • Take the car for a test drive.
  • Check if the paperwork is in order.
  • Arrange your insurance before you drive away.
  • When you’re picking up the vehicle, ensure you’re receiving all sets of keys.
  • Make sure all registration paperwork is in order and all necessary signatures are received. Request the originals of all paperwork regarding the car – never settle for photocopies.

Purchasing a second-hand car can be overwhelming and confusing. Being confident and informed is the best way to approach a second-hand car sale:

  • Prepare the questions you would like to ask in advance and practice saying these out loud.
  • Bring a notepad and pen to take notes. This makes you appear informed and organised, and it keeps your arms and hands from revealing nervous gestures.
  • Sip water as you ask questions about the car’s history, this gives you the chance to think about and analyse what’s being said before you respond.
  • Always be prepared to walk away to clarify your thinking. Remember, there’s always another deal. And that car will likely still be there tomorrow.
  • If you feel pressured into making a decision, explain that while you love the vehicle (if you do) you don’t have the power to make the final decision. You need to defer to another person who is not available right now.
The research was commissioned by Allianz and conducted by PureProfile in accordance with the ISO 20252:2019 standard. The survey is a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Australians who purchased a second-hand car either through the private channel or a dealership. The research was carried out online between 29 September and 6 October 2021.
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