Buying a car: a buyer's checklist

This publication is for: 
ConsumerMotor industry

If you’re thinking about purchasing a new or used car, there are a few things you should consider first, before you drive away with your new set of wheels.

Decide if you are going to buy a new or used car

With no accident or service history, new cars can offer peace of mind but they will usually cost more and depreciate faster than comparable used cars.

Learn more about buying a new car .

Used cars can be cheaper, but they come with more risk. A service history and pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic can help put your mind at ease.

Learn more about buying a used car.

Set your budget

When setting your budget, remember to think about other purchase costs, such as stamp duty and costs associated with running your vehicle. Visit the MoneySmart website for tips on how to work out the cost of buying and running your car.

Define your needs and do your research

Identify your specific needs and preferences in terms of the car's size, features, fuel efficiency, performance, safety, and any other factors that matter to you. Conduct thorough research on different car models that fit your criteria. Consider factors such as reliability, safety ratings, resale value, and customer reviews.

Perform some pre-purchase checks

This may include checking the service history by reading through the logbook, assessing the condition of the car and arranging an inspection with an independent mechanic.

Learn more about pre-purchase checks - Car buyer's checklist.

Check the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR)

Before purchasing a used car, check it hasn't previously been written-off, stolen, and that there are no outstanding debts, by doing a $2 PPSR search.

A PPSR search uses the 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. You can access the PPSR Check online or by calling 1300 007 777. Watch out for unauthorised websites which link back to this address and charge much more.

☑ Understand the risks of repairable write-offs

If the car is less than 15 years old, a PPSR search will include information about whether the vehicle has been written-off.

A repairable write-off (RWO) means the car has sustained damage which has been repaired and the car has been re-registered.

Even though the vehicle has been repaired, a RWO could have other unknown issues, you may struggle to get full insurance coverage, or you may discover that the vehicle has a lower market value.

If you buy from a dealer, the information displayed with the vehicle will include whether the vehicle is a RWO (if it is less than 15 years old).

Take it for a test drive

Schedule a test drive of the car to assess its performance, handling, comfort, and features. Pay attention to any unusual sounds or issues during the test drive.

Check your car warranty and ACL rights

Most new and used vehicles purchased from a licensed dealer in Australia are covered by a manufacturer's warranty if it is new, or a statutory warranty if it is second-hand and meets certain conditions.  

If you buy from a dealer, the dealer must give you an information statement about the statutory warranty, if any, that applies. The information statement contains important details about what is and is not covered by the statutory warranty.

Australian Consumer Law (ACL) consumer guarantees apply to all vehicles purchased from a trader/dealer. The ACL does not cover vehicles bought through private sales.

Understand that there is no cooling-off period

Currently, there is no 'cooling-off' period for vehicle contracts in Western Australia, although you may withdraw from a contract any time before the dealer signs the contract. If you need to cancel a contract to buy a vehicle after the dealer has signed it, you may be asked to pay ‘pre-estimated damages’. The maximum amount a dealer can charge is five per cent of the total purchase price.  Find out more information on cancelling a contract to buy a vehicle with a dealer.

Arrange finance

Explore financing options and compare interest rates from different lenders. It is a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan to have a clear idea of your budget and bargaining power.

Insure your new car

Before you drive your car home, you should get it insured. More advice on insurance is available on MoneySmart’s choosing car insurance.

Complete the purchase

A dealer will usually provide you with all the necessary documentation to complete your purchase. In most cases, they’ll give you an 'Offer to Purchase' or 'Contract to Buy a Motor Vehicle' document. Don’t sign anything until you’re sure you are ready to purchase because these documents can be legally binding and there is no cooling off period.

If you buy from a private seller, you need to complete transfer of ownership paperwork to make the sale official. For more information see Transport WA’s buy, sell or transfer a vehicle.


Consumer Protection
Fact sheet
Last updated 18 Jun 2024

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