Top tips for buying a vehicle


Follow RACQ Living's handy guide before buying another set of wheels.

happy woman in car with keys

Buying a vehicle can be a daunting experience with everything from finance, safety and running costs to consider. Here are some top tips to make buying a new or used vehicle easier.

Find the right fit

Are you after a car to transport the kids to school? Do you need to carry equipment for work or hobbies? Or are you after something a little sportier, a motorbike or convertible perhaps? Once you decide on the type of vehicle for your lifestyle, it's easier to nail down exactly what you're after.

If you're struggling to decide, check out Australia's Best Cars and see what our RACQ experts think are the best in industry for your desired segment.

Do your research

There are numerous websites including RACQ that have reviews, facts and stats on different types of vehicles. Make sure you check out safety results, fuel efficiency, additional extras, practicality, size and costs. RACQ also has professional car reviews which outline all the pros and cons of different makes and models, so you can make a decision easier.

A main point of consideration before purchasing any vehicle is running costs. More than just the initial price tag, buyers must consider ongoing costs such as fuel consumption and maintenance – so you know what effect your new car will have your budget in the future.

Pay special attention to servicing costs (including capped servicing) and check if built-in satellite navigation systems are subject to ongoing update costs.

Set a budget

There is no point getting your heart set on a car or bike that costs $25,000 when you have a budget of $10,000. You will also need to factor in ongoing costs such as fuel, registration, insurance and other extras into the final price.

Inspect before you buy

You wouldn't buy a house without seeing it first, so why it be any different for a vehicle. Vehicles are generally one of the more expensive purchases you will ever make, so get out there and investigate. Go for test drives, try multiple makes and models and find the right vehicle that ticks all the boxes.

New vs Used

There are pros and cons for both, so knowing what you want is the key. A used vehicle might not have all the same bells and whistles as a new one, but they are generally much cheaper. There is always a bit of risk with a preowned vehicle, but there are thousands that have been well maintained and serviced to schedule, just make sure to do your research and inspections. Who knows you may even find a new car you had your eye on in a used dealership or online with only a handful of kilometres and at a much lower price?

New cars on the other hand offer peace of mind and come with many dealer incentives including capped price servicing. They are also covered by a manufacturer's warranty which provides further security. The main strike against buying new is the initial cost and the fact new cars can lose a percentage of their value.

Private vs Dealership

Whether new or used, if you're buying from a dealership, make sure you compare dealers. There is a lot of competition out there so hunt around for the best deal.

If you're upgrading from your current vehicle, dealerships may offer you extra money on your trade in or throw in extras to get the deal over the line. You'll never get as much from a dealer as you would a private sale, but it takes away the stress of having to sell your vehicle online.

If you're buying from a private seller then you need to have your wits about you and make sure to protect yourself as they are higher risk and unregulated. Be sure to book an RACQ Vehicle Inspection and complete a PPSR check to help identify if the car has any money owing on it, has been reported stolen or is outstanding for a Takata airbag recall. The PPSR check only costs $2 and can save you thousands in the long run.

Insure your new pride and joy

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Make sure to insure your new vehicle after purchase so you're covered in the event of any accidents. RACQ has a range of insurance options depending on your vehicle.

Enjoy the ride

Congratulations! The hard work has paid off and now the vehicle is yours to enjoy. Make sure to have your vehicle serviced as specified by the manufacturer to keep it running smoothly.

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.