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Buying a new car

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".

Total cost

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.

Guarantees and warranties

Consumer guarantees

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

More details about consumer guarantees

There are 9 consumer guarantees that apply to any goods you buy from businesses in Queensland.

You can seek a remedy (a solution to the issue) if a business sells 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 a 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. A reasonable consumer would not buy a new car if it had 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, 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 guarantees is when:

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

More details about remedies

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

More details about motor vehicle sales and repairs (PDF, 331KB)

Your consumer guarantee rights are in addition to any other warranty (such as 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 on your vehicle. This allows problems to be fixed within the warranty period.

Remember, your consumer guarantees may still apply after the expiry date.

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

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.

Vehicle plate checks

Before you take 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.

The compliance date is not always the same as the build date, mainly on imported cars.

The build date represents that car’s true age, and you should use this date to estimate resale value.


You should shop around and get as many prices as possible.

As you visit 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.


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.

Pre-delivery check

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.

Making a complaint

Complain to the business

If you have a problem with a motor dealer, the first thing you should do is talk to them. Usually, people want to do the right thing and will be happy to fix any problems. You should write to the manager. Make sure you set out the problem and how you would like them to fix it.

Complain to the industry body

You might also be able to 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 MTAQ member.

Lodge a formal complaint

Sometimes the business won’t help. If this happens, you can make a formal complaint to us.

Lodge a QCAT claim

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

Last updated
17 July 2017
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