Buying privately is generally cheaper but it means going without a warranty unless the car is still covered by a transferable new car warranty. You can’t compare a range of cars side-by-side (except at a car market) and buying privately often means trudging all over the city to see cars which don’t live up to the expectations raised by the advertisements.
If buying at a ‘car market’ – which brings together a group of buyers and private sellers – you must treat the purchase in the same way as a private sale and do all the usual checks. At a market you can do some comparative shopping, and can often do more bargaining.
The majority of people are honest and decent, but you must still double-check everything you are told. If a car is described as a 1990 model, for example, and the paperwork doesn’t confirm this, it could have a significant influence on the vehicle’s value. Also examine the logbooks or service records to confirm the car has been regularly and properly serviced throughout its ownership.
Used car dealers
If you buy from a used car dealership, it pays to go to a professional, service-oriented establishment which offers a good selection of stock and has a well set-up workshop to perform any repairs which may be required during the course of the warranty. Some car dealers provide NRMA reports. If so, ensure that it is up to date, and then study it carefully to ensure that you understand the condition of the car you wish to purchase.
Unless you’re feeling very brave or lucky, it’s best to leave auctions to the pros. They involve a greater risk, since cars are sold ‘as is’ and it’s usually not possible to perform a thorough mechanical inspection beforehand. Another trap for new players is that the purchasing decision has to be made quickly, which is rarely the best way to make it.
Some buyers prefer to use the services of an independent motor vehicle broker. You explain to the broker what you want and he or she finds the car and negotiates the price on your behalf. The broker can also organise a trade-in. Vehicles bought through brokers should carry the manufacturer or dealer warranty. The broker generally receives a fee from the seller, so you pay no additional fees.