20 January 2023 · Our Blog - Read The Latest Articles

Beginners Guide To Buying A Used Car

Beginners Guide To Buying A Used Car

Buying a used car is a great option if you’re looking to save some money and even reduce your environmental impact. In fact, with the pandemic causing longer wait times for new cars and lowered confidence in public transport, used cars have become more popular than ever. 

However, there are many potential pitfalls for inexperienced buyers when it comes to used vehicles, whether the car has hidden accident damage, is encumbered, or even stolen, with no warranty to cover you if a fault is found after purchase. While many of these risks can be avoided by purchasing a car through a licensed Brisbane used car dealer, it’s important to do your own research and inspection of the vehicle to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. 

Our Top Tips For Buying A Used Car

Choosing The Right Car

The first step in buying a used car is finding a vehicle that is right for your requirements. With so many used cars available from both dealers and private sellers, finding the right vehicle can be a seemingly overwhelming task. 

The easiest way to narrow down your search to vehicles that are most relevant to your needs is to first identify what price range you can afford and what features the car needs to have based on what it will be used for. 

Determine Your Price Range 

First, determine what your budget is. When calculating your budget, it is important to factor in the complete cost of the vehicle. This includes additional charges and fees when purchasing, such as stamp duty, registration, and vehicle transfer costs, as well as the ongoing costs of owning the vehicle, including fuel economy, maintenance, and any work that the vehicle may require after purchase. 

Remember that, in most cases, the price of a used car is negotiable. This means that the advertised price of a vehicle may be slightly higher than you end up paying for it. Particularly if during the inspection you notice things that will cost you money after purchase, for example, the vehicle may be in need of a service or new tyres, etc. This can be used to negotiate the sale price lower. 

It is also important to consider that when buying a used vehicle privately, the seller is able to list the vehicle for any price they choose. This means that just setting your search to your determined price range is not enough, as the asking price of a vehicle may not necessarily reflect its market value. To check that a vehicle is fairly priced, compare other used vehicles of similar size, age, distance travelled, and features to ensure that the asking price is in line with the market. Having your own market research to back up the estimated market value of the vehicle will also help to give you confidence when negotiating the final purchase price.

Needs - How Will You Use It?

Once you have set a price range, you will need to identify what requirements you have for your new vehicle. This should be based on how you will be using the vehicle. If you will be transporting five or more people at a time, you will need to narrow down your search to vehicles like larger SUVs and people movers with extra seats. If you plan to use the vehicle predominantly for commuting to work and city driving, a smaller hatchback may be a more appropriate and cost-effective solution. Conversely, if you’re planning to do off-roading and long-distance travel, a 4WD or AWD vehicle may be your best option. 

In addition to the size and type of the vehicle, consider what additional features you may want or need, such as Bluetooth, reverse parking cameras and sensors, touchscreen monitors, extra boot space, heated seats, and the list goes on.

h3p>Brand & Model Reputation

While narrowing down your search to a shortlist of cars that fit your budget and needs, take the time to research the brand and model of vehicles you are interested in, looking at all features and specifications as well as reading reviews from other people who own the same vehicle. 

Watch Out For Scams

Another factor to consider when searching for the right used car is that unless you choose to buy through a dealership, you will be dealing with private sellers. This means that anyone can create a listing to sell a car, whether that car may be stolen, or in some cases, they may not even have a vehicle to sell and are looking for people to scam. 

Be wary of common scams such as fake websites or vehicle listings that may seem too good to be true. Additionally, avoid sending money to anyone without viewing the vehicle in person, as well as proof of ownership, and consider taking one or more people along to vehicle inspections for your own safety.

What To Check When Buying A Used Car

Once you have identified a vehicle that you may be interested in purchasing, the next step is to organise an in-person inspection and test drive. This will allow you to conduct a thorough inspection of the car to identify any damage that may not have been mentioned in the listing and ensure that everything is working as it should. 

There are a number of different things that you should check before buying a used vehicle in order to ensure that you are getting a good deal, including:

Service History

When looking at a used car, there should be a logbook of the car’s service history. This will help to give you an idea of how well the car has been looked after, including information about maintenance and repairs carried out on the vehicle since it was purchased. Entries in the logbook should be date-stamped and signed by the mechanic that provided the service. 

Vehicles with a missing or incomplete service history may end up costing you more money throughout the lifetime of the vehicle as small problems that would have been identified in a routine service may have been missed causing larger issues and costly repairs. 

Outside The Car

Inspect the outside of the vehicle, looking for any signs of damage ranging from chipped paint or minor scratches to more serious problems. Look for any abnormal gaps between panels, particularly around the bonnet and bumper, as this can be an indication that the vehicle was in an accident. Keep an eye out for signs of rust, particularly under the vehicle, as this can be an indication that the vehicle has not been well maintained. 

Next, check that all of the doors, boot, and bonnet open and close smoothly as well as lock and unlock when they should. Check that all windows wind down smoothly and then back up to form a watertight seal. Check the condition of all tyres as well as the spare to ensure that they are safe and roadworthy. Tyres with uneven wear can be an indication of misaligned wheels or a bent frame. If the tyres are well-worn and will need to be replaced soon, factor that into the cost of the vehicle. 

Look for any chips or cracks in the windows, front and rear windscreens, as well as mirrors, as glass can be expensive to replace. 

Inside The Car

When checking the inside of the car, ensure that all seatbelts easily latch and lock into place. Check the condition of the seats, carpets, and interior coverings, keeping an eye out for any stains or damage. Check inside doors and under floor mats for signs of damage or repairs that may not fit with the history of the vehicle. Ensure that air conditioning, audio, electronics, and other advertised features are fully functional.

Under The Hood

Lift the bonnet and look for any signs of coolant, oil, or other leaks. Check that the water in the radiator is clean and free of oil. Additionally, check for signs of a damaged cylinder head or leaking gasket by checking the oil filter caps. 

Next, close the bonnet and turn the engine on, letting the car idle for a few minutes to warm it up. Give the accelerator a short push, looking for signs of smoke that may indicate an engine problem. After letting the car stand for a while with the engine running, check underneath the vehicle for oil that may have leaked and look out for any wet residue on the underside of the vehicle or on the engine, as these things can be an indication of potentially costly issues. 

Test Drive<

One of the most important steps during an in-person inspection of a vehicle that you are interested in purchasing is taking it for a test drive. While you can look over the exterior and interior of the vehicle for potential signs of damage, you should always check how the car runs while being driven, as there are many issues that cannot be easily detected while the car is stationary. This will also help to give you a better feel for the vehicle and whether or not it will be appropriate and comfortable for your intended use.

Before taking any vehicle for a test drive, ensure that all lights are working, including indicators and brake lights, and check the dashboard for any warning lights as well as the temperature gauge. When you turn the car on, check that it starts immediately with no loud or unusual noises and ensure that there are no more exhaust fumes than reasonably expected.

While driving the vehicle, check that the gears change smoothly and quickly and that the brakes are responsive. Consider whether the car drives smoothly, if it pulls to one side, the engine noise when idling and moving, and pay attention to the suspension and transmission. If the car was advertised with features such as cruise control, lane assist, phone pairing, reverse camera, etc., take the time to check that each of these features is working correctly. 

Note: never test drive a vehicle on public roads that is unregistered with no CTP.

In addition to checking the vehicle yourself, consider having an independent mechanic look it over, particularly when buying from a private seller, to ensure that there are no potentially expensive issues with the vehicle that could cost you money down the line. 

Car History

If you’re happy with the vehicle after the in-person inspection and test drive are complete, the next thing to check is the car’s history. You can generally have a car history check completed online for a small fee using the vehicle identification number (VIN), a 17-digit number typically found on the inside of the driver's side door. 

A comprehensive vehicle history check will tell you whether the vehicle has ever been reported stolen, if it has previously been in an accident, if the vehicle has any finance owing on it, or if it is unregistered. There will also be information on if the vehicle has ever been written off or used for commercial purposes, such as for a taxi or hire car service.

Armed with this information from a car history check, you will have more confidence when purchasing a used vehicle that you are getting what has been advertised, avoiding potential problems that could arise after purchase.


While purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller comes with no warranty, you may still be able to get a warranty on a used vehicle when purchasing through a licensed dealer. This helps to cover any issues that may arise shortly after purchase, giving you peace of mind. 

Transfer Of Ownership

When it comes to transferring ownership of a used vehicle, it is important to ensure that all of the paperwork is properly completed and processed through the state motor authority. 

You will first need to check that the car is registered and owned by the seller, checking the seller’s licence against the registration papers to ensure that the sale is legal. Some states will also require a roadworthy certificate for the vehicle in order to transfer ownership.

Complete the required transfer of ownership paperwork for your state or territory, ensuring that the seller has also completed their part, and submit the forms to your state motor authority. In some cases, this can be completed online. You will be required to pay any fees for the transfer of ownership when the forms are submitted as well as stamp duty.

Ensure that you receive all of the keys to the vehicle when picking it up and keep a receipt of payment, whether it be a bank transfer receipt or a handwritten receipt signed by both parties. 

Reduce The Risk Of Buying A Used Vehicle With TCPO

TCPO or Toyota Pre-Owned Certified Vehicles are used vehicles that have met a strict set of requirements in regard to the age, condition, and distance travelled. This reduces the risk that comes with buying a used vehicle by ensuring that the vehicle is in good working condition with no hidden defects. 

Additionally, all TCPO used cars come with a comprehensive car history and full service history, as well as a 12-month warranty and 12 months of free Toyota roadside assist. For more information, talk to your local Toyota dealers at Downtown Toyota today on 07 3896 0100.