The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Car

2016 Mercedes AMG C63 205 MY16 63 S Edition 1 Grey 7 Speed Automatic Coupe

The ultimate guide to buying a car

Buying a car is a big investment. In fact, apart from acquiring property, buying a vehicle is the largest purchase most people make in their lifetime.

With so many things at stake – money, safety, dependability, and style, just to name a few – it is important to do as much research as possible to make a well-considered and informed purchase of a car that is just right for you.

Car Buying Guide Sections

Car Types

Whether you are considering a new car or a used one, there are many types to choose from – family models, sedans, sports cars, economy cars, hybrids, SUVs, and luxury vehicles, just to name a few – that anyone buying a car can find a type and model that fits their personal needs.

used bmw 3 series white sedan

A Used White BMW 3 Series Sedan

There is a booming market in SUVs and people carriers, ranging from compact and mid-sized models that are great for city driving and family lugging to four-wheel-drive workhorses that are capable of taking on the most rugged terrain.

Of course, there are always people that strive to save money, so compact, economy, and fuel-efficient cars are always popular.

Buying a used car vs a new car

With so many decisions to make when buying a car, one of the first big ones is, naturally, whether to buy a second-hand car or a brand new one. And, just as naturally, there are pros and cons to both choices.

Pros and cons of buying a new car

A new car has many significant benefits.

  • The body, frame, engine, and all component parts will be brand new.
  • It will come with a long-term manufacturer’s warranty.
  • It will have the newest, most up-to-date systems, safety items, features, and amenities available for that model.
  • Because you’re the first owner, you avoid any possibility of it having been mistreated by a previous owner.
  • You know the vehicle’s history, so you can be certain it has not been in any collisions.

On the downside, new cars do have drawbacks.

  • Buying a brand-new car is much more expensive than a used model.
  • You pay a premium for its ‘newness’.
  • It loses much of its initial value from the moment it is driven off the forecourt.

Pros and cons of buying a car that is used

On the other hand, there are tremendous benefits to buying a used car.

  • Used cars can provide excellent value for money in comparison to a new model.
  • Even a vehicle that is just one-year-old will be significantly cheaper than its brand-new counterpart while having most, if not all, of the same equipment, features, and amenities.
  • You can find many used models in fantastic shape.
Dealer Used Silver Volkswagen Tiguan SUV

Dealer Used Silver Volkswagen Tiguan SUV


Used cars have their drawbacks, as well.

  • A used model cannot be configured to your personal specification.
  • You are restricted to choosing from the selection that is available at the time.
  • Regardless of whether the used car is an older vehicle or a more recent model, there is no guarantee of the condition or longevity of the car’s engine and systems.
  • Even with the most recent model used cars that have only had one owner, it is impossible to know with any true precision how hard that previous driver (or drivers) drove the car.

Understanding car safety features and certificates

To determine the safety of new cars, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) carries out ongoing research into car safety. Their published ratings are invaluable in assessing how safe your vehicle will be on the road.

ANCAP safety ratings score all aspects of vehicle safety for every vehicle model that comes to market in Australia. The ratings evaluate the entire range of safety systems, equipment, and features, including occupant protection and crash-avoidance technology.

ANCAP car safety ratings logo

ANCAP Car Safety Ratings Logo

To determine the safety of used cars, safety ratings are compiled from police accident data relating to actual impacts of used cars in a variety of driving conditions. These used-car safety ratings are tremendously valuable, both for gauging the safety level of the car models you are considering, and seeing how well your chosen model has fared in real-life situations over the course of time.

When checking and evaluating the safety features of a given vehicle, double check the model name and year of manufacture, as safety features can change considerably from one year to the next.

Used cars bought from dealerships often come with safety certificates and some form of guarantee.

If you are buying a car direct from a private seller, they also may be required to provide safety certification for the vehicle. This is obligatory in Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and Victoria but not in New South Wales, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, or Western Australia, unless the vehicle has been modified or is being transferred between states.

Carrying out a car test drive

Carrying out a test drive is vitally important when you are buying a car. Whether you are buying new or used, you should verify that the car handles in the way that it should, that you are comfortable in the driving position, and that there are no notable issues with steering, brakes, clutch, or transmission.

If possible, test drive the vehicle both on the open road and in heavier traffic to accurate assess of its handling and condition in both scenarios. Be sure to take it through every gear, including reverse, paying attention to the gear changes and clutch bite points.

Where possible, test the brakes at speed with an emergency braking manoeuvre (not forgetting to check that there are no vehicles behind, of course).

What to inspect if buying a used car

When buying a used car, a thorough inspection is as important as negotiating a competitive price. There are several things to look out for when you carry out your used vehicle inspection to ensure a satisfactory and successful purchase.

Tips for inspecting a used car

Car Inspection Tip


View the used car in daylight

· Enables you to check for dents, scratches, and other marks on the bodywork.

· Makes oxidisation (rust spots) more clearly visible.

Look underneath the vehicle

· Looking underneath vehicle will reveal rust on the chassis or evidence that the car has been welded.

· Signs of welding could be an indication of repairs after an accident.

What are the oil levels?

· Mindful owners typically ensure proper oil level is maintained.

· Failure to attend to oil levels and regular oil changes can cause irreparable engine damage and affect overall performance.

How are the tyres?

· Is there plenty of tread depth on the tyres?

· Are there any bald patches?

· Is there uneven wear on the insides, middle, or outsides of the tyres?

· How is the tyre pressure?

· These wear points reflect how well the owner cared for the tyres’ condition.

How is the car’s interior?

· Check that the interior’s condition is satisfactory and reflects the price level.

· Check that the interior is clean and free of odours that can be hard to eradicate.

· A few stains on the upholstery may not be a problem, but they don’t reflect top dollar pricing.

· Inspect and test all interior lights, gauges, and systems, including ensuring all the seat belts are in full working order.

Start the car from cold

· Always start the engine from its cold state, when it is most likely to display any problems.


Where to buy a car

There are several places from which one can buy a car. Car dealerships sell both new cars and used, while private parties and car auctions sell used vehicles.

You can buy new cars from the automobile dealership that can be configured to your exact specification, or you can buy a former test-drive model that has only clocked a few kilometres.

Increasing numbers of people are buying a car that is used from a dealership, because they give you money for your present car, to lower the purchase price of a new one and they typically offer some form of warranty.

You can occasionally reap rewards at an auction, but before you make even a single bid, it is critical to research the cars. Another key task to do before the auction is to ask your insurance company how much your insurance premiums are likely to be before you go to the auction.

Though they don’t come with a warranty, you can usually get a lower price when buying private sale used cars. By buying privately you remove the overhead expenses that a broker or dealership must cover.

Buying a private sale car also gives you the opportunity to directly question the current owner about the car’s systems, engine and condition.

2008 Porsche Cayenne SUV Wagon

2008 Porsche Cayenne SUV Wagon For Private Sale On Gumtree

A few private parties may place ads in local papers, but the selection is considerably limited. On the other hand, buying a car can be done online with classified ad sites like Gumtree every single day, because of their massive selection, lower prices, and better deals.

Because so many car buyers shop on Gumtree, more and more sellers are selling their cars there too. In addition to private parties selling their vehicles, auto dealerships are advertising their entire inventories – both new and used cars – on Gumtree.


Audi Q5 Wagon

2013 Audi Q5 Wagon For Private Sale On Gumtree

How to buy a car on Gumtree

With the vast selection of cars and large audience, Gumtree is one of the best resources for both finding and selling cars. In just one stop you can find a range of advertisements from private parties, brokers, and dealerships offering used and new models for every taste and budget.

There is also historical car price data available for hundreds of the most popular car makes and models.

You can look at the largest selection overall by clicking on the “Cars and Vehicles” in the top navigation or typing “used cars” or “new cars” into the Gumtree search box you’ll see at the top of every page.

Naturally, most people have some idea of what car they would like to buy, so to get results more specific to you, simply type in a more specific term, like “Audi Q7” or “Mercedes AMG”.

2016 Mercedes AMG C63 205 MY16 63 S Edition 1 Grey 7 Speed Automatic Coupe

Dealer Used 2016 Mercedes AMG Grey 7 Speed Automatic Coupe For Sale

To find your ideal car try searching for the exact model and brand in Gumtree’s search box, such as “BMW 3 Series” or “Toyota Land Cruiser”.

Of course Australia is not small, so you might want to hone down your search to the area close to you. You can easily do that by typing the area into the location box to the right of the search box, by clicking the location links in the left-side navigation, or simply by including an area in your search term, for instance “Toyota Landcruiser Sydney

2010 Toyota Landcruiser Prado White 6 Speed Manual

2010 White Toyota Landcruiser Prado 6 Speed Manual For Sale

Whatever you are looking for, whether it’s great research on your dream car or the buying a car of your dreams itself, you can find it easily on the Gumtree cars section.

There is only one way to make it easier – by using the Gumtree app for iPhone or Android. With the app, you can carry the wealth of Gumtree’s resource in your hand wherever you go.

Insuring your car

You’re responsible for your car as soon as you buy it; before driving it anywhere, it’s advisable to insure it.

All vehicles in Australia must have compulsory third party (CTP) insurance before they can be registered and legally driven on the road.

CTP insurance protects you against damages claims made against you (or the driver of your vehicle) for injuring or killing other drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and/or cyclists in an accident.

If the car you’re buying is already registered, the CTP insurance will be transferred to you – you won’t have to buy CTP insurance for the vehicle until the current registration expires.

CTP insurance doesn’t cover loss or damage to your car or damage to other people’s property; depending on the level of cover you want, you’ll need to get either third party property damage or comprehensive car insurance, provided by insurers like Budget Direct.


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