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Buying from a Dealer

This is the safest way of buying, as you get the maximum protection of the law.

In most States and Territories, Licensed Motor Vehicle Dealers
are required to give statutory warranties on used vehicles, which vary in their generosity depending on the price asked. There are also severe penalties, including fines, deregistration and prison, for dealers who mislead purchasers. Nevertheless, there are still dodgy dealers, so look for an established firm with a good reputation. Find your nearest dealer in our Dealer Directory. A trade association sign may mean that the firm follows a code of practice. Your local Motor Trades Association can tell you which local dealers subscribe to a code of practice supported by your State or Territory¹s Office of Fair Trading. Look for a car yard which claims their vehicles have been part-inspected by a respected motoring organisation, such as the NRMA, or State RAC organisation. Ask to see the report on the car you want to buy. It will not be as detailed as one you pay for yourself, but will provide useful information. Or choose a dealer with a quality-checking scheme.

When buying from a dealer the law says that a car must be:
  • Of satisfactory quality
    It must meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable, bearing in mind the way it was described, how much it cost and any other relevant circumstances. This covers for example, the appearance and finish of the car, its safety and its durability. The car must be free from defects, except those pointed out to you by the seller.
  • Reasonable for any normal purpose
    It should get you from A to B and should be suitable for any other purpose that you specify to the seller, for example, towing a boat or caravan, or in the case of a four wheel drive, going off-road.
  • As described
    A car said to have "one careful lady owner" shouldn't turn out to have three previous owners, all males under 22.
These rights are not affected by any mechanical breakdown insurance (often sold by dealers if the manufacturer's warranty has run out), guarantee or warranty giving additional protection.

A dealer is not liable for any faults that an independent inspection should have uncovered. It's a good idea to get a description of the vehicle's condition from the dealer. Ask whether there is a pre-inspection checklist.

Things To Do When Buying From a Dealer
  • Check the car's documentation. This should include the car's vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN in the documents should be the same as that on the vehicle compliance plate in the engine bay. The car should also have a roadworthy certificate, and a registration certificate showing details of the previous owner.
  • Clarify the details of the warranty. These are laid down by legislation and vary according to the value and age of the car. Full details of those applying in your state can be found on the websites of the various Offices of Fair Trading or their equivalent. These are listed below:
  • Inspect the vehicle. A checklist of things to look for can be found at some of the websites listed above.
  • Arrange a comprehensive mechanical check. test-drive the car.
  • Read the contract of sale carefully. If there is something you don't understand, don't sign it
Next Tip - Buying at Auction
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