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How To Buy A Second-Hand Car Privately

Buying a second-hand car privately is a great way to score huge savings. But without customer protection, buying a car from an individual exposes you to some risks.  

So how exactly do you buy a second-hand car privately?

In this article, I will walk you through everything you have to know about buying a second-hand car from an individual seller. 

I will also share some helpful tips that you can use to make sure you’re scoring a great deal for your car. But first, let’s look at the pros and cons of buying a used car privately. 

Pros & Cons of Buying A Second-Hand Car Privately

The most obvious advantage of buying a car from a private seller is that it’s way cheaper than buying it from a dealership. 

However, there are also some disadvantages of doing it. Firstly, there’s the risk that the car has some hidden problems or has been written off. 

Then there’s the hassle of doing an inspection, especially if you aren’t knowledgeable about cars. 

It also means that you will not have any warranties or a cooling-off period that allows you to return the car if you change your mind. 

This is why we highly recommend that you buy a second-hand car from a trusted dealer, especially if it’s your first time. 

But if you do decide to go ahead and buy a car privately, following these 5 steps will decrease the risk of getting scammed. 

5 Steps to Buying a Used Car Privately

Step 1: Look For The Car 

Decide the type of car you want to buy. This could include:

  • Diesel or gas?
  • Manual or automatic?
  • SUV or sedan?

Then, visit online marketplaces such as Cartopia, Gumtree Cars, carsales.com.au, and eBay and use the filter function to sort through the listed cars. 

Alternatively, you can look at Facebook marketplaces. In my experience, there are a lot of great deals you can find on Facebook. And they’re usually sold cheaper than market value.

Step 2: Do Your Research

Once you’ve selected the car you’re going to buy, do your research on the car. Look for reviews regarding that specific make and model. 

Are there any issues you should be aware of? How efficient is the fuel consumption? Are spare parts harder to find?

Then, check the seller’s description. Does the car have any issues? What is the seller’s reason for selling? How much mileage is there in the vehicle?

Gather all the relevant information you can about the vehicle. Visit other marketplaces and check the general price range of your desired car. 

Once you’ve done that, you can now agree to meet with the seller so you can inspect the car. 

Step 3: Inspect The Car

A general rule when buying a second-hand car is to never pay for a car you haven’t seen. 

Inspecting the car is one of the most important steps to ensure you don’t get scammed. 

When doing an inspection, it is best if you can bring a qualified mechanic. But if you’re doing it yourself, check the exterior, interior, and mechanical components of the car. 

Here’s a list of what you should look for during the inspection:


  • Scratches (surface scratches are okay and can easily be buffed out, deep scratches will require repainting)
  • Discoloration or uneven paint thickness (this usually indicate that the car has been repainted)
  • Any dents on the car’s bodywork
  • Any cracks on the windows (including the sunroof, if applicable)
  • Check if the tyres are worn off


  • Condition of the leather seats
  • If the driver seat adjustment works
  • Seatbelts
  • Any rust or holes
  • Scratches on the dashboard
  • Condition of the speakers and monitor

After you’ve inspected the exterior and interior of the vehicle, ask for a test drive. If the seller won’t let you, this indicates that there may be something wrong with the vehicle. 

During the test drive, check for:

  • Any indicator lighting up (engine, brakes, etc.)
  • Sound of the engine
  • Condition of the batteries (you can ask the seller when he last changed the batteries)
  • Condition of the brakes
  • Mileage of the vehicle
  • Condition of the headlights and brake lights

Ask for the registration papers of the car and check if the name of the owner is the same as the name indicated in the registration papers. 

Check if the VIN indicated in the registration is the same as the VIN stamped on the vehicle. 

Also, check if the build date indicated in the registration matches the build date found on the vehicle. 

It also helps to look at the vehicle’s servicing logbook and find out some key information about the vehicle’s servicing history. 

Finally, check the vehicle on ppsr.gov.au to know if the car’s been written off, stolen, or has money owed on it. 

You would need to get the chassis number to be able to get this information.

Step 4: Agree On The Price

Now that you’ve done your research about the vehicle, found out the average market value of the vehicle, and inspected it thoroughly, you can now agree on the price. 

Most sellers tend to have a high asking price which you should always negotiate to get the best deal.

Take into account the cost of replacing parts or servicing the car. The most common parts that would need to be replaced are the tyres and the battery.

If a fair price is met, pay the seller in cash. Make sure you get some kind of proof that you paid that seller X amount of money for the car you just bought. 

Upon purchase, the seller should give you a copy of the safety certificate, and the vehicle transfer papers.

Get the seller’s basic information and a copy of the seller’s licence. It also helps to take a screencap of the seller’s ad or listing in the marketplace in case you’d need it along the road.  

Step 5: Transfer The Registration To Your Name

Once the vehicle is in your hands, it is your responsibility to transfer the vehicle’s registration to your name. 

All you have to do is give the completed application for transfer of registration form to accredited customer service and pay the fee. Once this is completed, the car is yours. 


Buying a car privately is a great way to save some cash, however, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up paying more instead of paying less. 

These 5 steps are designed to ensure you’re getting what you pay for. Following these steps are vital to the success of your vehicle purchase. 

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