20 Tips For Buying Second Hand Cars In Sydney (or anywhere in Australia)

Looking into buying second hand cars in Sydney but not sure how to go about it?

Whether you’re interested in buying a car from a used dealership in Australia or off someone directly, we’ve got some tips you need to read before you hand any money over. Trust me, I’ve heard of some horror stories, and we too bought a car in a rush which we wish we didn’t do in the end.

Steve and I finally bought our first second hand car in Australia recently, and there’s so much I wish I knew before going to a used dealership which is why we’re bringing you this post. Basically, our experience was a bit of a nightmare from the moment we handed over our money.

We’ve also had some of our readers reach out to us who have had problems when they were trying to find second hand cars in Sydney from a used dealership in Australia as well. We thought it was only right to share with you what we experienced.

If you’re moving to Australia, you’ll ultimately need a car to get around, whether you’re looking for used cars for sale in Sydney or in Melbourne, which is why we’re passing on the lessons we learnt when we bought ours.

Our car died the day before we were caught in the bush fires so we needed to buy one quickly.

And if you’re a backpacker looking to buy a cheap car or campervan to travel Australia, it’s definitely an option to invest in one and then sell it before you go back home.

We’ve always been lucky to have been given second hand cars in Sydney from Steve’s family. When our car died just before we were faced with the Australian bush fires, we embarked on a getting a new car as quickly as we could.

What went wrong with the used car dealership?

Once we bought our second hand car, we had drama after drama, that it took three weeks after we handed the money over before we had access to it.

The aircon wasn’t working properly and the dealer brushed it off like it would be really easy to fix. I assumed we would get the car on the day we paid for it.

We then had three whole weeks of constantly calling the dealer to see what was happening. Then it was lie after lie until they eventually gave us the car the day before we had to leave for our next pet sitting job with the part they were meant to fix. This means it’s now our responsibility to get it fixed because they didn’t in the three weeks they had kept the car from us.

We eventually got to the point where we had to just take the car and get the part fixed ourselves because we just couldn’t trust them. We’ve now found a mechanic who has quoted us just $100 to fix it which we are really lucky, because we know it could have been worse.

Here’s what we wish we knew before buying a cheap car in Australia.

1. Buying a car or campervan in Australia

We were trying to decide whether to get a campervan because it’s always been our dream to travel around Australia in a van. In the end we decided to buy a car purely because we thought it was the sensible thing to do.

We also drive a lot and long distances up and down the coast so we thought it would be better to have a well equipped car that would probably last longer than buying an old camper van with the budget we had of $6,000.

Whilst buying a campervan in Australia is an awesome option for backpackers, unless we had a lot of money to fork out, we would have ended up buying something really old that wouldn’t last more than 50,000km. We needed something that was going to last us the next five years or so.

2. Why we decided to buy second hand cars in Australia

We also decided to buy a small SUV and to be honest, there’s not a huge choice when it comes to buying an SUV in Australia. When we properly started to look into cars, we noticed pretty much the same handful of cars on the road. Surprisingly, we hadn’t actually noticed that before.

I wanted to get a Jeep or a Range Rover but as my friend mentioned, if you buy a car brand from another country, it’s really expensive to source parts. We then decided to go for a Hyundai because it had the best reviews for the price and it’s an Asian car which would mean it shouldn’t be too hard to source parts if needed. I know that theory sounds a bit random, but a few people mentioned this to us.

We also noticed that camper vans are really expensive. When we put cars and vans side by side for our budget, it was a no brainer to get a car instead.

Stop paying transfer fees and get this exclusive deal for
Londoner In Sydney readers with OFX, every single time
you transfer your money between accounts in different countries.

3. Where to buy campervans and cheap cars in Australia

If you’re wondering where to start with the process of buying a car or a campervan in Australia, these are the following sites we looked at:

Think of it like this; buying a car is a bit like house hunting. You’ll need to spend a bit of time literally trawling the the above sites to find a second hand car in Sydney or anywhere else in Australia. Then you’ll need to line up loads of viewings to co-inside with private car sales and dealerships.

We actually found our car in one weekend but it came with a lot of work too. We spent the first day looking at different cars in Newcastle NSW and when we decided on what type of car we actually wanted which had really good online reviews, we then went on a search to find the best one. This meant we had to go up and down the coast to Sydney to find the right car for us.

We looked at locals and backpackers selling their own which was a lot cheaper than buying one from a used dealership garage.

We opted for the used car dealership even though it was the most expensive because the car we wanted had been kept in the best condition. That’s the thing with used car dealers, they tend to only take cars in good condition. But we later found out that the dealership added on another $2K to charge us $6K. So technically we could have gone for one of the other cars which were more around the $4.5K price.

4. What to know before you buy a car in Australia

If you’re buying a car from a used dealership like we did, make sure you do the following first.

5. Check the car model and year reviews first

Before you think about buying a car in Australia, there’s more to it than just picking out the prettiest car you can find (that’s honestly what I would have done if Steve wasn’t with me). Go to Redbook and check out the reviews of the car model online first.

Make sure you check for recalls just incase the particular car you’re looking for wasn’t made properly. Just type into Google “check reviews for Toyota corolla 2015″, so you can also find out how much you’ll be paying for petrol etc.

On that note, petrol costs can vary a lot. Our first car we had in Australia was super cheap to fill up and just cost us $40. Our new one costs between $60-$70. And petrol stations vary massively from day to day.

6. Check Dealership Reviews First

One thing we didn’t do was to check the dealership reviews online. When we checked them out, they had no Google Reviews at all. Now I realise that this should have been alarm bells.

7. What to do when you find a car you like

Check the car for any dents or for anything out of the ordinary. Make sure you film the car from all angles so you can look at it when you get home if you’re in the choosing stage.

Also I wish we filmed our car a bit better because when we picked it up there was a crack in the windscreen. This is something we’re sure we would have noticed when we looked at it it but I didn’t film the windscreen so we’re not 100% sure.

8. Find out if there’s anything wrong with the car

Ask the dealer is there’s anything wrong with the car and find out how long it will take to get fixed. Download the NRMA checklist to inspect it yourself for tyre leaks etc.

9. Turn the car on

Sounds like an obvious one but turn the ignition to make sure the car sounds ok. Whilst on, check the aircon, heater, lights, are all in working order.

10. How many KM’s is acceptable?

When buying second hand cars in Sydney, one of the most important things you’ll need to check is how many KM’s the car has done. Whilst most people won’t look at anything over 160,000KM’s it actually just depends on the car. The car price will drop, especially if it’s over 200,000KM’s but to be honest, a car might go for as long as 400,000KM’s.

The car we bought had done 170,000KM’s although we did consider another car which had done over 220,000KM’s.

11. Take it for a test drive no matter what excuse they give you

Make sure you ask to take the car out for a test drive. The dealership we went with actually wouldn’t allow us to test drive our car because it was behind loads of other cars in a garage. But we made a very quick decision to buy it and just hoped it would be OK.

Looking back on it, always ask for a test drive no matter what excuse they come up with!

12. Check the entire service history in the log book.

Each car should have a log book so make sure you flip through it to make sure the car has been regularly serviced. Each car should be serviced every 10,000KM.

13. Pay for an inspection

We recommend paying NRMA for a mobile inspections to check the car over regardless of what the dealership tells you. We spoke to dealers who claimed they don’t allow NRMA mechanics look at their cars. To me that is just alarm bells going off.

We ended up paying a mechanic who worked next door to the dealership who was excellent. You know why? It’s because he was really honest with us. When sourcing a mechanic, get one as close to where the car is because they’ll likely charge you loads just for travelling to there. We paid $100 for our inspection. It would have been double if they had to travel to the dealership.

A friend told me when they looked at a car at a used dealership, they were told they couldn’t get an inspection done as the team at the dealership would do it. When they bought the car and the eventually took it to a mechanics, there was so many parts which needed fixing, it would cost more than what they paid for it. Generally, people who work at used car dealerships are salesmen, not mechanics!

14. 12 month warranty included!

When you buy a car from a dealership, you’ll get a 12 month warranty which means if the car brakes down in that time, they will fix it for you. You won’t get this if you buy it off someone privately.

15. Don’t leave it too long!

If you’re wondering why we were so stupid to not even take the car for a test drive, it’s because cars don’t last very long at a dealership. We knew it was the car for us and we just didn’t want it to be sold to someone else.

16. Or hold out for the car to go to auction

If you’re happy to wait it out, you could pop along to an auction where you could potentially save a lot of money. Just check with the dealerships as and when they hold their weekly auction.

17. E-toll

Make sure you order a E-toll device to put in your car if you’re based in Sydney as the city is notorious for car tolls. If you don’t get one, you could be paying a lot of money just to drive on Sydney roads (eg Sydney Harbour Bridge, Eastern Distributer etc).

18. Get the car serviced as soon as you buy it

We recommend getting your car serviced as soon as you buy it so that it’s in the best possible condition. You can do this by taking it to a mechanic.

Buy Car Insurance from AAMI

You’ll need to buy car insurance in Australia as well. We went with AAMI who have been brilliant so far. To be honest, I had an accident and a car ran into me in a supermarket car park just a week after we finally got the car. Luckily we had already bought our car insurance and AAMI literally just fixed it within a few days on the insurance. We pay about $66 a month for it.

19. Don’t forget to pay for your rego

Rego in Australia is the equivalent to MOT in England. You’ll need to pay around $500 a year to get the rego done on your car. You’ll need to pay this to Services NSW (or whichever state you’re in).

20. Where to sell your car in Australia

If you’ve bought a car specifically for a certain amount of time during your trip, and you need to sell it before you go home, then put it on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or consider selling it to a wholesale dealership.

We hope these tips have helped prepare you if you’re looking to buy a cheap car in Australia!

Stop searching for shipping companies and get up to 5 free quotes now and save 40%!

20 Tips For Buying Second Hand Cars In Sydney