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Buying a new car

Always do your research before buying a new car. This page includes useful information to help when buying a new car and ensure you protect your consumer rights:

A new car has never been licensed or registered. A demonstration car (‘demo model’) is not classed as a new car.

Before buying a new car

Before you buy a new car, you should:

  • compare on-road costs and operating costs, including registration, compulsory third-party insurance, stamp duty
  • check additional insurance costs
  • check fuel consumption, servicing and spare part costs
  • get an independent safety assessment
  • ask about and compare after-sales support and warranties that different sellers and manufacturers offer
  • test drive the vehicle
  • not pay money for a car you haven’t seen or can’t confirm exists.

Checking build and compliance dates

Before you take your new car and sign the contract, you should check the build and compliance dates. These dates are found on plates fitted to the inside of the car.

The build date plate is usually found in the engine bay and is:

  • when the car was manufactured
  • used to value a car when you resell it.

The compliance date plate is often found in the engine bay, driver door frame or footwell. It is when the car:

  • met the Australian safety standards
  • became legal to drive here.

The compliance date can differ from the build date, especially on imported cars. The build date represents that car’s true age, and you should use this date to estimate resale value.

Negotiating a price

Before you buy a new car, you should shop around in person or online and get as many prices as possible, to help you negotiate a fair price.

As you visit or talk to each dealer:

  • ask for their best quote, including any extras, and get it in writing
  • find out about trade-in options.

Have a budget and stay within your limit. Walk away if you don’t get the price you want. If you can’t afford the car, it’s not the right car for you.

Paying a deposit

Before you buy a new car, dealers will often ask for a deposit to:

  • prove that you want to buy the car
  • reserve the car.

You should only pay the minimum deposit the dealer will accept.

Before you hand over your deposit:

  • check that it is refundable
  • understand the terms and conditions
  • get a receipt for every payment you make.

Signing a contract

The contract of sale for the purchase of a motor vehicle is a legally binding document.

Do not sign the contract or pay a deposit until you are sure you want to buy the car.

Make sure the contract:

  • has no clauses, terms or conditions you don't agree with
  • shows the trade-in amount
  • has a specific delivery date.

You should:

  • never sign an incomplete contract
  • always keep a copy of what you sign.

Specific contract requirements

If you have specific contract requirements, make sure you write them into the contract.

Some examples are:

  • "This contract is subject to the purchaser obtaining sufficient finance from (insert the name of your credit provider) to complete the purchase."
  • "(Insert car details including colour and build date) is to be delivered by (insert date) otherwise the contract will be cancelled and deposit refunded."

Checking total costs

When you buy a car, the dealer must specify all mandatory costs.

The costs should include the sum of:

  • the actual price of the vehicle
  • transfer duty (previously known as stamp duty)
  • dealer delivery charges
  • any other levies
  • fees that must be paid before you receive the vehicle.

Make sure you know the full cost of the vehicle, including add-on costs, such as window tinting and rust proofing.

Doing pre-delivery checks

After you sign the contract, but before you drive off with your new vehicle, make sure you check:

  • there are no dents or chips in the paintwork
  • there are no cuts or scratches on the interior
  • all accessories or extras you ordered were included
  • the build date of the car matches what the dealer told you.

Understanding guarantees and warranties

Consumer guarantees

The law automatically gives you rights when you buy goods and services, including cars, caravans and trailers. These are your consumer guarantees. Learn more about consumer guarantees.

There are consumer guarantees that apply to any goods you buy, hire or lease from businesses in Queensland.

You can seek a remedy if a business sells, leases or hires you a vehicle that doesn’t meet these guarantees. The business will have to attempt to correct any fault, deficiency or failure. This might be by refund, repair, replacement or compensation for the drop in value of the product.

When there is a major failure, you can:

  • reject the vehicle and choose a refund or a replacement
  • ask for compensation for any drop in value of the vehicle.

A major failure to comply with a consumer guarantee is when:

  • a reasonable consumer would not have bought the vehicle if they knew about the problem or a series of problems. For example, a reasonable consumer would not buy a new car with
    • a fault that several mechanics could not fix
    • so many faults that the car has spent more time off the road than on it
  • the vehicle is significantly different from the description, sample or demonstration model shown to the consumer. For example, if a consumer orders a vehicle with a diesel engine after test-driving the diesel demonstration model, but the vehicle delivered has a petrol engine
  • the vehicle is substantially unfit for its normal purpose and can’t be made fit within a reasonable time
  • the vehicle is substantially unfit for a purpose the consumer told the dealer they needed it for
  • the vehicle is dangerous to use because of the problems it experiences.

Anything not considered a major failure is a minor failure.

A minor failure to comply with a consumer guarantee is when the problem:

  • does not interfere with the normal operation of the vehicle
  • can be fixed quickly, for example, by replacing or repairing a faulty part.

Learn more about remedies.

Consumer guarantees apply to all new cars, regardless of the price.

Learn more about motor vehicle sales and repairs (PDF, 1.5MB)

Your consumer guarantee rights are in addition to any other warranty (e.g. a manufacturer’s warranty) that comes with the vehicle.

Manufacturer’s warranty

New vehicles often come with a manufacturer's warranty.

Before the warranty expires, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic do a full check of your vehicle. This allows problems to be fixed within the warranty period.

Remember, your consumer guarantees may still apply after the expiry of the manufacturer’s warranty.

Knowing the cooling-off period

There is no cooling-off period on the sale of a new car. Make sure you are happy with the car and the terms of the contract before signing it or paying a deposit.

A cooling-off period is an amount of time given to you to end the contract without large penalties.

Used car purchases have a cooling-off period.

Make a complaint

If you have a problem with a new car you have purchased, contact the business to explain the problem and the outcome you want. In many cases, a simple phone call or visit can fix the problem.

The business might discuss with you whether it is a minor or major problem to determine a repair, replacement or refund and who will be responsible for the remedy—the business or the manufacturer.

It is a good idea to write a complaint letter or email, so the seller is clearly aware of the problem and what you want, and you also have a record of your contact. You can send a summary after your verbal conversation.

If you don’t reach a solution or remedy to a dispute, you can complain to the industry body or to us, or you can lodge a claim with QCAT.

Complain to the industry body

You can complain to the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTAQ), the peak body for the Queensland’s automotive industry. You can only do this if your retailer is a member.

Complain to us—the Office of Fair Trading

Complain to us.

Lodge a QCAT claim

You might also be able to lodge a claim with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

QCAT has a jurisdictional limit of up to $100,000 for motor vehicle disputes.