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Buying a used vehicle

Choosing a used vehicle to buy is a big decision. Researching and inspecting the vehicle you plan to buy, and knowing your rights when buying it, can make a huge difference to your finances and safety. A Personal Property Securities Register certificate will show the history of a vehicle.

Picking a used vehicle smartly can prevent you from getting a vehicle that:

  • has debt attached to it (that you are unaware of)
  • is very different from what you wanted
  • has been stolen
  • has had damage that has caused it to be listed as a write-off that you are not prepared to accept—vehicles under 15 years old that are written-off are listed on the written-off register.

The laws are different if you buy your used vehicle:

  • from a licensed motor dealer
  • privately from the owner
  • at an auction.

From a motor dealer

Buying from a licensed motor dealer can be more expensive than a private sale, but it is the safest way to buy a used vehicle and provides many advantages.

When you buy a used vehicle from a licensed dealer, you are entitled to:

  • test drive the vehicle
  • a 1 business day cooling off period
  • a statutory warranty (for certain vehicles)
  • a clear title guarantee
  • be protected by the motor dealers legislation
  • access to a claim fund that may compensate you if you lose money because of the dealer’s actions.

Cooling-off period

When you buy a used vehicle from a licensed dealer, you have a 1 business day cooling-off period. This means, if you change your mind, you have 1 business day to end the contract without any big penalties. The 1 business day refers to the dealer’s trading days—if you sign the contract on a Friday and the dealer is open on Saturday, Saturday counts as your 1 business day.

During the cooling-off period:

  • if you pick up the vehicle and take it home, the cooling-off period ends straight away (you give up your right to it)
  • you can take the vehicle for an independent mechanical inspection (without giving up the cooling-off period)
  • you can test drive the vehicle (without giving up the cooling-off period)
  • the contract is not yet legally binding for you (unless you take the vehicle home), but it is legally binding for the dealer.

A dealer cannot refuse to give you a cooling-off period.

Guarantees and warranties

The law automatically gives you rights when you buy goods and services, including vehicles and trailers. These are your consumer guarantees.

Your consumer guarantees will apply:

  • for a reasonable amount of time after you buy the vehicle
  • regardless of any other warranties
  • even if other types of warranty have run out.

The amount of time that is reasonable:

  • varies from vehicle to vehicle
  • will depend on the price and quality of the specific vehicle
  • is not defined by when other warranties run out.

Find out more about consumer guarantees.

In certain circumstances, you are also entitled to a warranty at no extra cost when you buy a used vehicle from a licensed motor dealer. We call this a statutory warranty. It protects you from financial loss if your vehicle is faulty.

Statutory warranty covers you when the vehicle’s:

  • odometer reading is less than 160,000km
    and
  • date of manufacture is less than 10 years before the sale date.

The warranty expires after 3 months or the first 5,000km.

Find out more about statutory warranty.

Clear title guarantee

When you buy a used vehicle from a licensed dealer, you get a clear title guarantee. This means that you are guaranteed that the vehicle does not have any unpaid debt attached to it.

Claim fund compensation

If you suffer a financial loss because of the actions of a motor dealer or their employee, you may be able to make a claim against the claim fund.

Find out how to make a compensation claim.

Privately

When you buy a vehicle privately (directly from the previous owner) you will need to take extra care. It can often be cheaper than buying from a licensed vehicle dealer or at auction, but it is a riskier way to buy.

When you buy a vehicle privately:

  • you are not entitled to a cooling-off period
  • you will not get a statutory warranty
  • the seller does not have to give you a Personal Property Securities Register certificate or a clear title guarantee
  • you will not be able to make a claim for compensation if anything goes wrong and you lose money.

It is very important to make sure the vehicle you are buying:

  • belongs to the person selling it and is not currently listed as stolen
  • is what the person says it is
  • has no unpaid debt attached to it—if you are aware of any debt attached, you should take measures to ensure the current loan is paid out before the time of sale (you can ask the seller to obtain a payout amount before the sale) or has no title held by a financial institution.
  • is going to keep you safe.

If you buy the vehicle you may wish to sight the person’s licence to ensure they are the registered operator of the vehicle. The current registration certificate or vehicle registration notice will show the registered operator.

Find out how to transfer registration into your name when you buy a used vehicle.

Other vehicle checks

You should also check the:

  • number plate, construction date, vehicle identification number and engine number on the registration certificate all match the vehicle exactly—you can match this against the vehicle’s VIN plate
  • vehicle has a current Queensland safety certificate or a certificate of inspection displayed on it
  • safety certificate or certificate of inspection has not expired or exceeded the 2,000km allowed or 2 months (whichever comes first) before a new certificate is needed for a private sale
  • safety certificate or certificate of inspection has not expired or exceeded the 1,000km allowed or 3 months (whichever comes first) before a new certificate is needed for a motor dealer purchase
  • gas certificate, if necessary, is within 3 months from date of issue for either private or dealer sale
  • Personal Property Securities Register says there is no money owing on the vehicle. If any money is owing on the vehicle, make sure you have made arrangements with the seller and their financial institution before you buy the vehicle.

Personal Property Securities Register certificate

A Personal Property Securities Register certificate tells you if the vehicle that you are thinking of buying has:

  • any outstanding debt attached to it
  • the details of the vehicle if it has been written-off
  • been stolen.

A vehicle can get debt attached to it if a bank gave a loan to the seller—to help them pay for the vehicle when they first bought it—and they have not fully repaid the loan at the time of sale. If this happens, it means that, by law the bank can take back the vehicle if the seller cannot finish paying off their loan—even if you now own it.

When you buy a used vehicle privately, there is no guarantee that the vehicle is clear title. The seller does not have to give you a Personal Property Securities Register certificate.

You should look up the vehicle and view the Personal Property Securities Register certificate before you buy it. If the certificate shows any outstanding debts, make sure the previous owner clears the debt before you pay them.

At an auction

Bidding at an auction is a fast way to buy a vehicle. Always make sure to study the vehicle and conditions of sale carefully before bidding. The auction will need to be officiated by a licensed chattel auctioneer.

Before an auction, the chattel auctioneer must announce if the vehicle:

  • does (or does not) have a statutory warranty
  • is a repairable write-off, which must pass a written-off inspection before it can be registered
  • is a statutory write-off, which can never be registered.

Usually, you are not allowed to test drive a vehicle before bidding on it at auction. However, you should be able to inspect it.

When you buy a vehicle at an auction, you are entitled to:

  • a statutory warranty for certain vehicles
  • a clear title guarantee
  • a safety certificate
  • a receipt
  • a completed registration transfer application form
  • access to a claim fund that may compensate you if you lose money because of the auctioneers actions.

The sale of ex-government vehicles is managed by Manheim. You can buy now or bid at auction.

Guarantees and warranties

The law automatically gives you rights when you buy goods and services, including vehicles and trailers. These are your consumer guarantees.

Your consumer guarantees will apply:

  • for a reasonable amount of time after you buy the vehicle
  • regardless of any other warranties
  • even if other types of warranty have run out.

The amount of time that is reasonable:

  • varies from vehicle to vehicle
  • will depend on the price and quality of the specific vehicle
  • is not defined by when other warranties run out.

Find out more about consumer guarantees.

In certain circumstances, you are also entitled to a warranty at no extra cost when you buy a used vehicle from a licensed chattel auctioneer. We call this a statutory warranty. It protects you from financial loss if your vehicle is faulty.

Statutory warranty covers you when the vehicle’s:

  • odometer reading is less than 160,000km
    and
  • date of manufacture is less than 10 years before the sale date.

The warranty expires after 3 months or the first 5,000km.

Find out more about statutory warranty.

Restorable vehicles

At an auction, a vehicle is considered restorable if it is:

  • 20 years old or more
  • for sale for restoration.

Restorable vehicles do not meet the criteria for statutory warranties, however consumer guarantees apply.

Clear title guarantee

When you buy a used vehicle from a chattel auctioneer, you get a clear title guarantee. This means that you are guaranteed that the vehicle does not have any unpaid debt attached to it.

Claim fund compensation

If you suffer a financial loss because of the actions of a chattel auctioneer or their employees, you may be able to make a claim against the claim fund.

Find out how to make a compensation claim.

How to transfer registration

Find out how to transfer registration into your name when you buy a used vehicle.

Want to buy an ex-government vehicle?

You can buy ex-government vehicles through Manheim. You can buy now or bid at auction.

Last updated
25 August 2015

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