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Buying used cars privately

You will need to take extra care if you decide not to buy a car from a licensed motor dealer or auction, as a private seller is not bound by consumer guarantees.

Also if you buy privately:

When you buy privately, make sure:

  • the car is not stolen (you can contact your local police station and giving them the VIN number, registration number and engine number)
  • the car, if registered, has a current safety certificate
  • you get a PPSR certificate to make sure there is no money owing on the car
  • you get an independent vehicle inspection from a qualified person or approved inspection station
  • test drive the vehicle
  • you do not pay money for a car you haven’t seen or verified it exists
  • compare on-road costs and operating costs, including fuel costs, registration, compulsory third-party insurance, stamp duty
  • check additional insurance costs
  • check servicing and spare part costs
  • check spare part availability
  • the car has not had damage that has caused it to be listed as a write-off (vehicles under 15 years old that are written-off are listed on the written-off register).

Plus check the details on the registration certificate match the:

  • registered owner’s name
  • number plate
  • vehicle identification number (VIN) (or chassis number if the car was made before 1989)
  • engine number.

Vehicle plate checks

Before you buy your car, you should check the build and compliance dates. These dates are found on the plates fitted to your car.

The build date is:

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

The compliance date is when the car:

  • met the Australian safety standards
  • became legal to drive in Australia.

The compliance date is not always the same as the build date, mainly on imported cars. Make sure the advertised year model of the car matches the build date.

If you buy a car based on its compliance date, rather than build date, its resale value could be less than expected.

Registration and exemptions

If a used car changes hands, the registration must be transferred within 14 days after getting the car and there are fees you will need to pay when you transfer registration. Find out how to transfer the registration into your name when you buy a used vehicle.

There are exemptions from paying duty when you transfer a vehicle. Find out if you can get an exemption.

More information

Learn more about buying a used car.

You can also download our Car Smart guide.