Car buyer's checklist
On this page:
- Check registration and vehicle plates
- Check the condition of the car
- Test drive
- Perform a PPSR search
- Check the service history and logbook
- Verify the odometer
- Consider a pre-purchase inspection
Don't get taken for a ride - complete the checklist
Consumer Protection’s Don’t be taken for a ride – used car buyer’s checklist will help you ask the right questions of the seller and find out exactly what you’re buying before you drive away.
Download and save the PDF to your device to fill it out and keep it handy.
New and used cars
With every car you should:
Before you take possession of a car, use the registration plate details to run two checks on the Department of Transport website:
- check its registration - Make sure the make, model and year match the vehicle you were looking at, and that the registration is up-to-date; and
- check for outstanding payments using the Account Lookup.
Every car has a unique identifier called a vehicle identification number (VIN) which is a 17 character unique identifier located in the owner’s manual or stamped on the driver’s side door.
Check there are:
- No dents and scratches in the paintwork;
- No cracks in the windscreen, windows and rearview mirrors;
- No signs of damage to the interior of the car;
- No missing accessories or extras;
- No uneven tread on tyres;
- No signs of oil splatters, corrosion, and loose wires under the bonnet;
- No issues with the heater, air-con, and sound system when the car is turned on;
- No problems with the exterior and internal lights when the car is turned on; and
- No signs of rust.
After inspecting the car, take it for a test drive to assess its performance. Pay attention to any signs of problems with the steering wheel, brakes and handling of the car.
If you are purchasing a used car, make sure you also:
Check if the car you want to buy has been previously written-off, stolen, or any outstanding debts by doing a $2 Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) search. You will need the vehicle identification number (VIN). You can access the PPSR online or by calling 1300 007 777. Note: Unauthorised websites link back to this address and charge much more.
Check the service history by reading through the logbook. If the car has been well maintained, it should have been serviced every 10,000-15,000 km, or every six months.
The average driver in Australia travels about 12,000-15,000 km per year. If the odometer reading does not align with the car's age, it could be a sign of odometer tampering, or it may indicate the car has been parked or unused for long periods.
A pre-purchase inspection through a third-party licensed mechanic is recommended to help identify any mechanical defects that may cause problems for you later. For more information visit RAC inspections or Department of Transport vehicle inspections.
Important: When you buy from a private seller, you are purchasing at your own risk as you are not protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) consumer guarantees or any statutory warranty.