Spending the weekend test driving cars and haggling with sellers used to be a treasured past-time for some and an unavoidable chore for others. Regardless of your position on it, with recent stay at home orders and social distancing due to COVID-19, buying from afar seems to be the way to buy right now.

So how can you do your homework on buying used cars and make sure you aren’t being taken for a ride? We have some tips.

Make a good shortlist

If you are looking for a used car, you must know what you need it to do – does it need to seat an entire family? Does it need to tow a caravan? Does it need off-road capability? This can narrow down your choices as you get to the “wants.” Do you want it to have satnav? Climate control? Do you want a newer car, as it may be safer? Try to narrow down a few makes and models so you can concentrate your search and speed up the process.

Use a car loan broker

Rather than going through your bank, it’s best to consult a car loan broker when buying a used car. Savvy CEO and car finance expert Bill Tsouvalas says it can save you in the long run. “Banks usually offer unsecured personal loans for you to finance a used car, which usually have higher interest rates and require excellent credit,” Tsouvalas says. “Looking at a car loan broker who can find a used car loan can save you in interest. A car loan broker will have ties to many lenders, which can make your loan package even more competitive.”

Know the market value

You should know the fair market value for the type of car you intend to buy. This can help you avoid being scammed, as you can weed out offers that are “too good to be true” or well below market price. Though you can get a good deal on your chosen model through negotiation, a car being sold for below its real worth is usually a sign of a scam.

Don’t fall for scams

Since many people are at home and signing up to mailing lists and alerts for car sales, there is a high potential for falling victim to a scam. If you’re a buyer, a “seller” may email or SMS you with an offer to buy a car well below the market price. The “seller” may say the car is overseas or interstate and needs an up-front deposit to release certain details such as the VIN and logbook. Once a deposit is made, the seller disappears, and the buyer loses the money. Never make any payments unless the offer is genuine. For more information, visit Scamwatch.gov.au.

Inspect cars you intend to buy

As we mentioned earlier; keeping a social distance is important to slow the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and looking at dozens of cars on a weekend runs counter to health guidelines. You should only inspect the cars you intend to buy in person. Some sellers may also be reluctant to give you a test drive – make sure you arrive with protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and sanitiser to put them at ease.

Use the Personal Property Security Register

Most reputable car sales sites will give you a vehicle’s registration number and in some cases the VIN. You can use the Personal Property Security Register to check if the car is written off, stolen, or if there is finance owing. This can protect you before closing any potential deal. If the PPSR shows up red flags, walk away.


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Practical Motoring

The team of journalists at Practical Motoring bring decades of automotive and machinery industry experience. From car and motorbike journalists to mechanical expertise, we like to use tools of the trade both behind the computer and in the workshop.

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