Where Should I Buy a Used Car?
Finding and buying the right used car can be overwhelming it’s not something you do very often and its a big purchase. Then there’s the thought: Who can I trust when I buy a used car? As anyone would know there’s no two used cars the same: so how can you be sure the one you’re looking at is what it seems to be? That’s why it’s so important who you chose to buy from! Here are some advantages and disadvantages when buying a used car from three common sellers Licenced Dealers, Private sellers and Auctions.
Used Car Warranties
Warranties are almost always at the front of anyone’s mind when buying any product, it’s not just cars. This one can be a little tricky and can even vary from car to car. Let’s assume the cars you’re looking at don’t have any factory manufacturers warranty remaining to get rid of some confusion. So what’s the difference?
In Queensland (Varies from state to state) it is law that any vehicle under 20 years old sold by a licensed motor dealer must come with a statutory warranty. Often dealers have options to add additional protection too.
A private sale in this circumstance most would already know have no warranty or protections for the buyer if any problems arise with your second hand car.
Similar to a private sale purchasing from an auction in almost every case you do not receive any warranty and any problems that rear their head are on the buyer to repair.
Inspecting in Person
It’s probably a no-brainer if you can you’re going to look over the car yourself or have a friend do it for you before deciding this is the one. Although it’s great for cosmetics, cleanliness and some more obvious problems, maybe not so much mechanical if you aren’t mechanically minded (that ones up next)
The way dealers operate has changed time and time again over the years but one thing remains the same and that is you’re always welcome to see the car that you like in person sometimes by appointment but mostly a range of different days and times for your convenience.
It would be very unusual if a private seller didn’t allow you to see the car they’re selling. If they did have a problem with you seeing the car that should raise red flags! Unfortunately it can be a bit tricky to arrange a time that works for both you and the seller with the odd modern working hours. For the most part if you can organise a time this can be much the same.
Depending on the Auction house inspections can be very limited or difficult. If it’s not online and you’re able to lay eyes on the car you’re interested in it could be crammed in tight with others, locked and you may not be able to start the car. Some Auction houses have condition reports where they’ve listed the obvious problems which might not worry you but they’re never thoroughly mechanically inspected which we all know is the most important thing when buying a used car.
Independent Mechanical Inspections
Lots of buyers out there maybe even you aren’t mechanically minded so for peace of mind having the car they like inspected by an independent mechanic is a common choice. There are many different ways you can do this like taking the car to your trusted mechanic or booking a mobile mechanic to go to the car for inspection. It is always recommended to use a licenced, experienced mechanic for your inspection as there are pricey inspections out there not carried out by mechanics and often if they are mechanics they have little to no experience.
Most long standing dealerships have a reputation they work hard to keep, most will do their own thorough mechanical inspections on a car before they even decide to sell it. Because of this dealers should be confident in the car they’re selling. If the proven reputation of the dealer selling the car you want isn’t enough to put your mind at ease most will be happy for you to have your own independent inspection carried out. If they aren’t happy for you to have one carried out be weary.
To sell a car with registration in Queensland both dealers and private sellers must have a roadworthy certificate. This is not the same as the mechanical inspections many dealers carry out as they have to warrant a vehicle. Some would say it’s even more important to get a privately sold vehicle mechanically inspected. Similar to arranging a time for you to inspect the car yourself, it can be a mission to make a time that suits everyone to have the inspection carried out. Understandably most private sellers wouldn’t be comfortable letting a stranger take their car to a mechanic unsupervised so mobile inspections may be the only option.
For the majority of auctions it’s very hard to have a thorough independent mechanical inspection carried out so you will essentially be going into the purchase blind.
Once you’ve narrowed things down and you’re happy with the condition of the car you’re looking at you’re probably going to want to drive the car to see if you actually like how it drives and feels. Remember no two used cars are the same and that goes for how they drive and feel too!
Nearly every licensed dealer will have test drive insurance and in some cases will even encourage you to take the car you like for a spin. Simple really.
Some private insurance policies only cover listed drivers and certain ages so it’s very possible the car won’t be insured if you would like to drive it. Understandably private sellers can be very reluctant to let anyone drive their car for fear of it being damaged. No doubt if they do let you take it for a spin they will be with you in the car the whole time. Be careful it can be an expensive exercise if you have an accident and their insurance doesn’t cover you!
If you were to even ask for a test drive at an auction house you’d probably be laughed out of the building. Nearly every auction does not offer test drives.
Written Off Status
What is a write off? A write off can be one of two things: a statutory write off that can’t legally be re registered and a repairable write off that can be re registered once it’s repaired, inspected and approved. How does a car get written off though? It can happen in many ways; If a car is in a major accident and it can’t be repaired it is a statutory write off. If a car is in a major accident or has major damage such as hail storms and is worth less than the cost to repair it’s listed as a repairable write off. When a car is listed as a repairable write off regardless of how it was damaged it is usually worth half of an equivalent car that hasn’t been written off.
It is law in Queensland that a dealer must disclose whether a vehicle is a write off or not. There are even massive penalties if they knowingly lie about a vehicle’s written off status.
Other than morals there is nothing to stop a private seller from hiding a vehicle’s written off status and are not required to tell you if you don’t ask. If you discover a seller has lied you can take the matter to the police but there’s no guarantees. If the price is too good to be true then there’s usually a reason why.
Like dealers it is law in Queensland that a motor auctioneer must disclose whether a vehicle is a write off or not. There are even massive penalties if they knowingly lie about a vehicle’s written off status.
Like a lot of things in life the government has rules and regulations arguably to make things fair for everyone, that also applies to selling cars. There are some very important differences between the rules for different sellers though so be cautious.
In Queensland all Motor dealers are required to hold a current Motor Dealers licence to sell cars. Their sales people must also hold a current Sales Licence to work selling those cars. There are many rules and regulations a Dealer must follow and at any time the government can choose to inspect the cars in a Dealers car yard. In both cases if the Dealer or Sales person breaches the laws around selling a car in Queensland they can face hefty fines and even lose their Licence.
There is a limit on how many cars a private seller can sell in a year before they are required to get a Motor Dealers licence. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop “back yard dealers” from using certain tricks to continue buying and selling past the limit. Private sellers are not currently required to warrant a car that they sell or make you aware of a vehicle’s written off status. A private seller is not required to tell you a car is encumbered (has money owing) unless you ask. If they lie when you ask there are penalties although not as harsh as for a Dealer or Auction.
Again like Motor dealers, Auction houses are required to hold a current Motor Dealers licence to sell cars. Their auctioneers must also hold a current Sales Licence to work selling those cars. In both cases if the Auction house or Sales person breaches the laws around selling a car in Queensland they can face hefty fines and lose their Licence. Although auction houses are required to disclose certain information about the cars they are not required to provide a warranty on the cars.
Which seller offers the best value when buying a used car is up to the person buying. As you know there are many things that mean a used car is a great car including condition, history, mechanical soundness, age, price and many more. One might be older and more expensive but in better condition and better mechanically you’ll need to weigh up what matters more to you. As for peace of mind and protections before, during and after your purchase it should be pretty clear which seller is the safest to buy your next used car from.
Disclaimer – All information in this article was true and correct at the time of writing 1/10/2021