Where Should I Buy My Car?

Where Should I Buy My Car?

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Once you've decided how you'll pay for your car, whether it's lump sum cash, or you've got a car loan pre-approval in place, it's time to start looking for the right vehicle.

But where should you start?

Once you are ready to move from browsing to the actual purchase, here's what you need to know:

How can I buy a car?

You've probably already been browsing for cars online and noticed that none of the car websites have a checkout process. While you can't buy a car online yet, you can browse cars across dealerships and private sales Australia-wide.


Purchase Venue Good Bad
Dealership Warranty
Finance available
Clear title and roadworthy certificate
Cooling off period
Buy new or used
More expensive
Pressure from car sales staff
Car Broker
Hassle free
Finance available
Buy new or used
Negotiations taken care of
Potentially large savings
May not be cheaper
Broker may require commitment to purchase upfront
Auction Negotiating power
Access to well-maintained used cars
Guaranteed clear title
Warranty included
Winning bidder must purchase
High-pressure environment

Private Sale Often the cheapest option to purchase a used car No warranty - you take responsibility for the mechanical condition of the car.
Risk of purchasing an encumbered car unless you do the checks.


When it comes time to finalise your purchase and pick up the keys, you'll need to visit one of the following services:

1. Car Dealerships

If you buy a brand new car, you'll do this at the dealership. The warranty will be set by the manufacturer, and you'll have the pleasure of choosing the colour, interior trim, and features that you want.

You can also buy a used car through a dealership. This works out much cheaper than buying a car that's new, as in the first year of ownership a new car loses 20 per cent of its value. It is more expensive than buying a used car from a private seller, so why would you do it?

  • Warranty - dealer used cars come with a statutory warranty. The law varies by state, so check your state government website to find out the minimum warranty on a used car.
  • Cooling off period - the exact period varies by state. In South Australia, you have two clear business days to exercise your cooling off rights. The car remains in the possession of the dealer, and if you decide not to proceed with the purchase, you must notify the dealer in writing (this includes fax, email, or print).

You may be required to pay up to a 10 per cent deposit. If you rescind the contract, the dealer may keep 2 percent of the contract price and must refund the remainder of the deposit by the end of the next business day.

Note that there is no cooling off period for the purchase of a new car.

  • Guaranteed clear title - when you buy from a dealer you can be certain the car isn't under finance
  • A current safety or roadworthy certificate

2. Car brokers and wholesalers

Buying a car through a broker or wholesaler is ideal if you know what you want and you are time poor. A good broker will be able to advise you on cars that suit your requirements or find the exact specifications on a car you want to buy.

Car brokers usually buy new cars on your behalf, and some can also arrange financing and the purchase of used cars.

A strong internet presence doesn't mean the broker will get you a good deal.

Have an idea of the price before you start a conversation, and be prepared to walk away if you aren't happy.

A good broker will be able to save you money on the price and make the purchase process easier.

3. Auction

Auctions are often used to sell ex-government cars, and it's a chance to get a well-maintained car at a bargain.

You have much greater bargaining power than at a dealership, but remember there is no cooling off period. If you plan on buying a car at auction, attend a few auctions first to get a feel for how they work. Make sure the auctioneer is licensed too.

Here's what you need to do on the day:

  1. Register as a bidder before the auction starts. You'll need to provide suitable identification, and you'll be given a marker to use for bidding.
  2. Set your price for the vehicle, and stick to it.
  3. If you make the winning bid, you are contractually bound to purchase the vehicle.

Usually the same warranty requirements as would apply if you purchased the car from a dealership.

4. Private Sale

Buying a car privately allows you to negotiate the price, and you'll usually get a better deal than you could get through a dealership.

When buying a car at a private sale, you aren't covered by a statutory warranty, so make sure that you take the following precautions:

  • Make sure you are confident the car is mechanically sound. You could get a formal inspection through your local mechanic or roadside assistance authority for peace of mind.
  • Ensure the car has clear title. You can do this with a PPSR search, which will reveal if the car is under finance, and confirm the owner. If there is existing finance, make sure that this is paid out during the transaction, before you take possession of the car.
  • Check the car isn't stolen by providing the VIN and owner's name to the local police.

You'll also need to complete the transfer of registration within 14 days of purchase, so ensure you have the paperwork completed by the party you purchase the car from.

Buying a car online

While you can't buy a car online in Australia just yet, it won't be long before you can. In the UK you can purchase a used car online and have it delivered to your door with a money-back guarantee if it's not exactly what you want.

While we think that new cars will be available for online purchase first, it won't be long before you can do your entire car purchase right from your couch here in Australia too.

Don't wait until the point of purchase to arrange your finance - secure a better deal by getting finance in place before you find the car, and ask about our no-pressure car sourcing service too.

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