7 trusty steps for buying a used car

Opting for a secondhand car is a great way to save coin as opposed to splashing cash on a brand new shiny vehicle. Given that cars depreciate in value greatly over the first few years of their life, you can save a ton of money by taking the savvy secondhand route.

However, it pays to brush up on your used car knowledge, lest you end up with a lemon.

To help guide you through the process – from working out what to pay and where to buy, to organising a vehicle inspection in Sydney – the following steps outline seven important factors that should play a part in your purchasing journey.

  • Draw up a budget – and stick to it

Before letting yourself get whisked away in the world of secondhand cars, sit down and work out how much you can reasonably afford to fork out. Avoid being tempted by slick ads for vehicles that’ll only cost you an extra few hundred bucks – this is a dangerous slippery slope.

  • Decide how you will pay for the car

Are you going to buy your new vehicle outright, or will you need a car loan? The previous step will help to dictate this, but once you’ve made a choice, stick to it.

  • Research prices

Don’t take the buyer’s word for it, particularly if you’re sourcing your secondhand vehicle through a private seller. Do your research and take the time to compare multiple different car models so that you’re clear on what’s a reasonable price to pay. A few handy websites for doing this include,, and

  • Think about where you’ll buy the car from

Generally speaking, there are three ways to purchase a used car: private sellers, auctions, or dealers. Like most things in life, each have their pros and cons. Purchasing through a private seller is usually much cheaper, but they won’t be bound by the same laws as licensed dealers. Picking up a bargain at an auction is also pretty friendly on the pocket, but it comes with the risk of no opportunity to do a test drive or get a formal valuation.

  • Look for cars that are at least two years old

In terms of quality and price, this rule of thumb means you’ll get the best bargain. Brand new cars lose around 10% of value each year, which means that after the two-year mark, a vehicle’s depreciation has been smashed big-time and therefore the price will be significantly lower. However, given the relative newness of the car, the condition is generally still pretty decent.

  • Arrange a test drive

This is a bit of a given, but it would be remiss of us to leave the all-important test drive off this list. During this standard practice, it’s a good idea to take note of the following:

  • Does the engine run smoothly?
  • Do the headlights and interior lights?
  • Do all seatbelt buckles work, and are the straps nice and tight when pulled on?
  • Are there any issues with opening and closing the doors?
  • Is there any smoke coming out of the exhaust?
  • Does all the interior technology (air conditioner, indicators and radio) work?
  • Will the tyres need replacing, or are any of them overly worn and therefore indicate potentially wonky wheel alignment?
  • Book a vehicle inspection

Last but certainly not least, it pays to enlist a professional’s expertise prior to purchase. A  vehicle inspection typically costs a few hundred dollars, but the investment can save you thousands in the long run as your potential new vehicle receives a thorough check of the engine, suspension, transmission, steering, brakes, tyres, interior, exterior, and electrics.