If you’re planning on buying a used car, know your rights and the potential risks to avoid disappointment or expensive repairs.

While buying a used car can be cheaper, you can be caught out if there’s hidden damage or other repair needs that haven’t been disclosed.

Floods across parts of Australia have caused enormous damage to people’s homes and also to many cars. There is a risk flood damaged vehicles could be sold to unsuspecting car buyers. The extent of the damage might not show up until later, and it could be costly to repair.

So what can you do to reduce the risk?

It’s a good idea to take the car you are thinking of buying for a test drive. Listen and look out for any signs of engine damage or parts that aren’t working properly.

Ask a qualified independent mechanic to inspect the car. The cost of a mechanic inspection could be much cheaper than repairs needed after the sale.

If you buy from a private seller, check the government’s Personal Property Securities Register. This check will show if the car has been stolen or if money is owed on it. You don’t want the car to be repossessed after you buy it. You can also check if the car has been flood damaged or written off. Visit www.ppsr.com.au to make these important checks.

Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Don’t sign anything until you’re confident the car is in good condition and you really want to buy it.

You have more protection if you buy a used car from a licensed dealer:

  • The car must be free from defects.
  • You get a warranty in most cases and consumer guarantees - which means the car is covered if something goes wrong and you need repairs.
  • You get a two-day cooling off period - which means you have some time to change your mind if you want to.
  • You are guaranteed ownership of the car.

But it’s still important to understand your rights and the dealer’s obligations. Check the white display sheet on the car, which gives you important information about the car, such as the number of kilometres it has travelled, year of manufacture and price. Where a warranty is provided, read through the details to find out what is covered.

For more information

See helpful tips about buying a used car in these new short videos:

Visit cbs.sa.gov.au/cars for more information and use the checklist to help you make the right purchase.