Private Buyer’s Manual: Our guide to buying a used car

Last updated on April 21, 2022

Our Private Buyer’s Manual contains must read tips for buying a used car, from the research stage to inspection and even transferring car registration. Whether you’re buying a car from a stranger, or purchasing from a friend or family member, our manual can help support you by providing useful information to help you navigate the process.

Download our Private Buyer’s Manual (PDF, 389 KB)

Buying a used car can be a great way to save money and reduce your impact on the environment. During the last two years, new cars have been slow to arrive in Australia and the pandemic has led to a greater reluctance to catch public transport. According to a recent Moody’s Analytics report (PDF, 214KB), this has caused Australia’s second-hand car market to flourish with more people considering buying a used car. However, buying a used car can be a tricky process.
97% of people we surveyed say they felt some confusion when buying a used car privately*.

Respondents told us they were worried about the following things:

  • The car’s warranty
  • Whether they’re getting a good deal
  • Whether the car they’re planning to buy works properly

With so much to consider, it’s easy to miss important checks, and end up with a car that isn’t what you expected.

Because we’re behind you for what’s ahead, we wanted to make things easier, so we’ve put together our Private Buyer's Manual , to help you know what to do when buying a used car privately.

The manual contains a checklist for buying a used car, and covers:

  • 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

The range of used vehicles available can be overwhelming for a private buyer. One in five Australians don’t have a positive experience when purchasing their second-hand car . Therefore, it’s important to do your research upfront so that you know the right car for your budget and needs. Knowing the questions to ask when buying a used car can also help. Our manual looks at the key points you need to consider when researching used cars.

  • Price and insurance
  • Space and use
  • Safety and new technology
  • Fuel economy and environmental impact

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*:

  • Almost a third of Australians bought a used car without a test drive
  • Around a third of Australians assessed how roadworthy a car was by looking at it, or simply by trusting the seller on their word
  • Many Australians missed key steps during the inspection process, such as organising a mechanics inspection (73%), viewing the car’s logbook (48%), and checking whether the car had been in an accident (42%)

Our Private Buyer's Manual outlines what you need to check at three important stages when buying a used car:

  • Inspecting the interior and exterior of the car
  • Taking the car for a test drive
  • Checking if the paperwork is in order

If any of the tests don’t check out, you always have the option of walking away. One small indication of wear and tear can be a sign of more extensive and expensive damage, and after the sale you may end up footing the bill.

According to our research, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of people only considered getting their car insured after they had purchased the car. For some, only when it was too late, and they had been in an incident or accident (10 per cent).

Once you’ve found the used car for you, our manual can guide you through the purchasing process, including insurance considerations. The section also covers:

  • Funds transfer
  • Types of insurance
  • Rego transfer
  • The handover

Remember, if you’re experiencing difficulties buying a car privately, you can also choose to buy a used car from a dealer. Dealers can provide instant information, transparency about the car and can help with finance and insurance. Even if you’re buying from a dealer, it can still help to consult our Private Buyer’s Manual to make sure you don’t miss any important questions or information. Alternatively, if you’re selling, check out our piece for  buying a car and selling a car

*According to research commissioned by Allianz and conducted by PureProfile. 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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