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The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Buying a Used Car


If you’ve never bought a used car before the process can be daunting because you simply don’t know what you don’t know.

The biggest fear that most first time used car buyers have is buying a lemon from a disreputable dealer or private sale and being stuck with the consequences.

Here at Tru Blue Motors it’s really important to us that customers drive away in a car that suits their needs, matches their budget and reliably serves them for many years to come.

So to help educate first time used car buyers we’ve created the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Buying a Used Car.  In our ultimate guide we’ve gone further than simply rehashing all of the good advice out there.

We’ve compiled the best tips and brought them together in an easy to read guide.  We hope you get value from the guide and if you think someone could benefit from it we’d appreciate a share.

researchDo Your Research8092691992_422577525a_n

With the availability of information on the Internet there is no need for you to go into buying a used car with your eyes closed.

It’s important that you do your research on cars that meet your needs and try to focus on those with a reputation for quality, reliability and for low running and maintenance costs.

In Australia and globally sites like www.Edmunds.com and www.RedBook.com.auare great sources of information not only on price but of model history.

In Australia check out the used cars section on reputable car blogs like http://www.caradvice.com.au/ ,


needsDetermining Your Needs8659677218_1cc9410222_n

When buying a used car there is always going to be a list of things you need versus the things you want.  Make a list of what your exact needs are before you get to the dealership and you get caught up with the emotion of buying a car that is what you want versus what you need.

Make sure you know what you need in terms of fuel efficiency, cargo capacity, safety and seating before you start looking and you will be less likely to buy a car that you will be disappointed with down the track.

Source: http://autos.jdpower.com/content/buying-tip/KuNe4AQ/10-used-car-buying-tips.htm


When you are at the point f reviewing your final choices of cars take the time to check the history of the car to ensure that it is not stolen, has previously been written off or is encumbered by any outstanding finance.

If you are buying the car from anyone other than a registered motor vehicle dealer you should search the Personal properties Securities Register at

http://www.ppsr.gov.au/Pages/ppsr.aspx to see whether the car is under a hire purchase, lease, credit arrangement or bill of sale.

If dealing with a registered motor dealer this process will have already taken place.


budgetBudget & Finance8049045679_a8b06d20fe_n

Before you even start looking for a car it’s important for you to determine how much you can afford to spend.

Don’t forget to include the cost of registration, insurance and any extended warranties that you plan to take out on the car.

If you will be financing the vehicle use a car finance calculator to determine what your monthly repayments will be.

Starting the process this way means you are less likely to stray to considering cars outside of your budget or allowing emotions to influence your buying decision.


testdriveDriving and Testing the Car6474999841_0ced8d182f_n

At the end of the day a good comprehensive test-drive can tell you a lot about whether the car is right for you.

Remember the following tips.

> When the car is at rest turn the steering wheel from one lock to the other to ensure there is no screeching, banging or knocking.
> Test the handbrake to see if in fact it stops the car from rolling down hills or driving away.
> Keep the radio off so you can listen for noises from the engine
> Drive using all gears and on as many different road surfaces as possible

checkingChecking the Car5255593330_694a77d183_n

Always have the vehicle checked by a competent mechanic and have a good look at the car yourself in daylight.

Remember that the Safety Certificate that is required by law to sell a car covers only the roadworthiness of the car and may not address many other mechanical defects that may cost you more to repair down the track.

Carsguide.com.au has a great checklist to use when buying a used car, which includes the following, tips, which can be found here:



> Always look at the car in full daylight, never in the dark or in rain that could conceal body marks, dents, rust and other defects
> Check under the car, the bonnet and the interior carpet for rust and signs – such as welding marks — which may show the car has been in a crash
> Under the bonnet, look for signs of oil leaks on top of the engine, and underneath. Use the dipstick to check the amount of oil. If the level is low, the owner hasn’t been looking after the car properly
> Look around the oil filler cap for a white mayonnaise-like substance – this is an indication of a damaged head gasket which can be very expensive to put right
> Take a look at the tyres to make sure they’re in good condition with plenty of tread
> Get down in front of each front wheel and look along the length of the car. Both front wheels should be directly in front of the rear ones – if they’re not, it could mean the car has been in a crash and ended up with a slightly twisted or `crabbed’ chassis
> Check the gaps between the body panels are equal – if they’re not, the car could have been refitted badly, or may have been in a crash
> Inside the car, make sure the seat-belts work correctly, the steering wheel and dashboard are bolted on correctly, the front seats move properly and all switches work
> Start the car with a cold engine, which will make is easier to reveal problems like poor starting or too much smoke

privatedealerPrivate Sale or Dealer7108054917_3dd0fb0883_n

When you’re buying from a private owner you run the risk of not knowing the sellers intentions are.  Why are they selling?  Are they trying to be rid of a lemon?  Is there something about the history of the vehicle that they are not telling you?

Of course you will get the care checked out correctly and a roadworthy certificate issued before you buy but sometimes it’s important to try to dig in a little deeper to try to discover the sellers motivations.

You will have a lot less protection when buying from a private owner so make sure you review the cars service history and logs and take it for a comprehensive test drive.

There are no Government Departments to protect you from a private sale.

When buying from a dealer you can remove the risk by ensuring that you buy only from a licensed Motor Dealer.  The law offers protection to purchasers who buy second hand cars from used car dealers.

If you are in Queensland make sure that the dealer is a member of the Motor Trades Association of Queensland.  In other states and countries there are equivalent membership organisations.

Make sure your dealer is a member.

Dealers also typically have all their cars inspected for road worthy before being offered for sale.

Try your best to ascertain the dealer’s reputation by checking out automotive forums and websites.

For more legal information on buying a car check out  Legal Aids’ comprehensive resource at http://www.legalaid.qld.gov.au/legalinformation/carsanddriving/Pages/Buyingacar.aspx


We hope you find this guide useful. We will work to make it more comprehensive over time so be sure to check back.  If you found this resource useful please feel free to share it with others.


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