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Know these Red Flags Before Buying Used Cars in Australia

image for Know these Red Flags Before Buying Used Cars in Australia

Buying a used car in Australia is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. They’re cheaper than buying new, you can avoid huge depreciation, and they usually have lower fees. But there are some people who have reservations about buying a used car. It’s completely understandable. A car is a major purchase; no one wants to get a second-hand dud.

We’re here to set your fears of accidentally buying a lemon to the wayside. Find a good used car for sale by learning what to avoid. Here’s how to buy a car without getting scammed: 

Keep an eye out for these used car red flags 

Know the signs before you buy your used car. Include these red flags on your used car checklist when purchasing a used car for sale. 

Red flag #1: The price is too good to be true 

Be wary of used cars that are priced way below market value. Especially if the seller says it has low kilometres and is in great condition. These cars are probably not the great deal you’re looking for. 

Used cars that are suspiciously affordable typically have some serious issues under the hood. A low price is a way for shady sellers to distract buyers from doing their due diligence. They hope that you’d be too enamoured by how much you’re saving to inspect the car. 

Pro tip: Do your research. Take the time to compare cars. Look at similar models or similarly aged cars in the used car market to see if the price being offered sounds reasonable.

Red flag #2: There’s too much rust and weird smells 

Excessive rust could be a tell-tale sign that the car is in poor condition. Rust does tend to accumulate especially for old cars. However, if there’s a lot of it and in vital areas (e.g., frames, body panels), then it’s better to move on and keep looking. 

If you smell a peculiar stench when you step in the car, that’s also a sign for you to move on. You’re not going to get that new car smell buying a used car, that’s a given. But used cars shouldn’t have weird lingering odours that are musty or mildewy. These smells may be the cause of water or flood damage. 

Pro tip: Survey the car carefully. A rusted floor pan or rusted frame can be replaced, but it will probably be expensive. The same goes with a water-damaged car, it may work okay now, but fixing future issues may cost a fortune. Check every nook and cranny of the vehicle to ensure there are no weird rust spots or smells.  

Red flag #3: New paint and carpeting 

You might think that a new coat of paint and brand-new carpeting is a good thing. But that’s not always the case. Often, this indicates repairs were made or that seller may be trying to cover something up. This is your cue to find out what may have happened to the vehicle. If the seller isn’t forthcoming about the reason for the new paint or carpeting, take this as a sign that the car is not for you.  

Pro tip: Watch out for mismatched paint or carpets. You don’t want to buy a car with mysterious underlying issues. Even if the clashing paint job or carpeting isn’t that much of an eyesore for you, dealing with potential issues could be costly. 

Red flag #4: Warning lights 

When buying used cars, you need to take warning lights seriously. Sometimes warning lights are on because a gas cap is loose or the sensors are out of whack, but you probably shouldn’t take that risk when buying a used car. If the dashboard warning lights are all lit up, take your search elsewhere. 

You never really know the actual condition of a used car. Remember, warning lights are there for a reason. Heed their cautions so you don’t buy a potential money pit.  

Pro tip: Have the car inspected by a mechanic to check if there’s anything wrong with the car. You’ll be spending a little extra, but if you’re dead set on that car, having a professional inspect it can be beneficial. And if the seller or dealership expresses hesitation when you mention inspection, that’s a definite red flag too. 

Red flag #5: The seller is controlling and way too eager to sell 

This one is less about the car and more about the attitude of the seller or dealership salesperson. You can tell a lot about the condition of a car by how the seller acts. Sellers who are reluctant to let you test drive the car or have it inspected should raise suspicion.  

The same can be said for sellers who are a bit too eager to sell. There are sellers out there who will put pressure on buyers to take the deal and go. But don’t be pressured into closing the deal quickly. Usually, tactics like this are made to distract you from something important.  

Pro tip: Stay alert! Make sure to test drive the car. If a seller is trying to control where or how you drive it, don’t hesitate to ask about it. You need to ensure the used car for sale is up to your standards and no one else’s. Also, don’t be influenced by pushy salespeople trying to hurry the deal. Take your time and keep yourself well-informed before deciding. 

Red flag #6: Missing title 

This is less of a red flag and more like loud warning sirens. Titles are the most important part of a used car purchase. Having a title is proof that a person legally owns and can sell the car. A seller without a title is bad news and you should stay away. Check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and make sure it matches all the relevant information. 

Pro tip: Do a VIN check before buying a used car even from what seems like a trustworthy seller. You can do a used car search on the Personal Properties Security Register website. The search can tell you the vehicle's written-off and stolen status.  

Ready to buy a used car? 

Now that you know what to watch out for, you’re one step closer to a successful used car purchase. When you’ve decided on the car you want, you’ll need to figure out the financing. A used car loan offers plenty of benefits. Learn more by getting in touch with one of our friendly lending specialists!

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About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

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