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Buying a used car – some hints and tips

There are a number of ways to buy a used car, including buying from a licensed dealer, from a private seller, from an auction, or at one of the weekend used car markets that spring up from time to time. Although we recommend that you purchase a vehicle from a licensed MTA dealer, we also believe you should have the best possible advice no matter where you decide to buy your new secondhand car.

The purchase of a motor vehicle usually involves a significant amount of money. It's important that you don't sign anything unless you're ready to commit yourself to the terms and conditions detailed on the paperwork. If you sign a contract to buy a car and change your mind later you may still have to pay the dealer a portion of the agreed sale price.

Any promises should be in writing and the papers signed by both parties to the transaction.

Buying from a private seller

When buying from a private seller, there is a series of steps you should follow to ensure that the car you purchase is the car you’re after, and that you’re protected in the event it isn’t.

Verify ownership of the vehicle and the identity of the vendor(s)

Go online and get a PPSR vehicle check for the car you're looking to purchase. A PPSR check is a thorough vehicle history, including listing the VIN and chassis numbers, whether the vehicle has ever been written off or reported stolen, when the car was first registered and how many times the registration has been changed. Once you have this information, you can verify that the car you are looking at purchasing is the car the seller claims it is.

Check for the vehicle's compliance plate

A compliance plate is a small metal plate attached to a vehicle by a manufacturer or an importer that states that the vehicle complies with the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). The compliance plate is a quick indication to registration authorities that compliance with the ADRs has been demonstrated through thorough testing. It's typically found fixed to a vehicle’s engine bay, door pillar or footwell. Always make sure that the vehicle you are considering buying has a compliance plate.

If the vehicle is historic or modified, it won't have a compliance plate. Contact the Roads and Traffic Authority Motor Registry Office to ensure that it has been approved for registration and is therefore considered safe for it's intended purpose. You can call on 132 213 or visit their website.

Check that vehicle's engine and chassis (or VIN) numbers match registration papers.

Your REVS check will include the vehicle's VIN and chassis numbers. Use these to confirm that your potential new vehicle's history checks out.

Ask for a Certificate of Inspection

In a private sale the vendor is legally required to produce a Certificate of Inspection issued within the last month when showing the vehicle. This Certificate should be given to the purchaser at the time of sale. This Certificate of Inspection is a confirmation of the mechanical condition of the vehicle, and that it's safe for normal road use.

Get insured before you drive

Be sure you have Compulsory Third Party insurance arranged if your new secondhand vehicle is unregistered. Comprehensive insurance cover is also strongly recommended.

Get it in writing

It is important to get all terms and conditions of the transaction in writing and signed by both yourself and the vendor. This will protect you in the event that either party doesn't comply to previously agreed terms.

Get it Inspected

An MTA (Independent) Vehicle Inspection will help protect both you and your passengers.

MTA Vehicle Inspections are truly unbiased vehicle inspection specialist.Our skilled technicians will thoroughly inspect a vehicle you wish to purchase and provide you with an easy to read report (with photos).MTA Vehicle Inspections is a mobile service, yes, we come to you (restrictions apply).

Inspections can be carried out prior to purchase at a Motor dealer or if buying privately at home/work.Most importantly, we do not own, operate or have any affiliation with a service workshop or repair centre. You can be confident that an MTA Vehicle Inspections report will only point out genuine defects that really do require attention.

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Buying from a registered dealer

The alternative to buying privately, or from an auction or car market, is to purchase a second-hand car from a licensed dealer. Secondhand car dealers are required to guarantee the title of any vehicle they sell and in most cases provide a warranty covering mechanical defects.

If you buy from an MTA member you are also protected by the MTA Code of Ethics - a commitment that sets out the obligations of members to the public and the standards by which a member will go about its business.

Incidentally, if you purchase a vehicle from a licensed dealer and it later turns out to have stolen the dealer is legally required to refund your purchase money. If the dealer is no longer trading your money will be repaid from the Motor Dealer Compensation Fund.

Dealer notices

When you buy from a licensed dealer in NSW you will find that most secondhand passenger vehicles offered for sale carry at least one notice prominently displayed. The notice tells you such important details about the vehicle as its make, model, price, engine number and distance travelled. It also summarises the dealer’s legal obligations to the purchaser and the terms of the warranty, if any, that applies to that particular vehicle.

Form 4 is the simplest, applying to cars with no known defects which are covered by the minimum warranty of 3 months or 5,000 kilometers, whichever comes first.

Form 6 is used when cars are covered by a warranty but where specific defects have been noticed and excluded from the warranty. This form also provides an estimate of repair costs. Cars which are sold under Form 6 must also be accompanied by a Certificate of Inspection which shows they are roadworthy at the time of sale.

Form 8 is for cars not covered by a warranty. These are generally those more than ten years old, or those that have travelled more than 160,000 kilometers. A roadworthy certificate should be available for any vehicle which displays a Form 8.

Form 14 is displayed on vehicles which are priced above the luxury car tax limit. These vehicles are not covered by a statutory warranty; however they must be in a roadworthy condition when sold.


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