How To Buy a Good Used Car


Avoid Buying a Lemon

No one wants to buy a lemon that costs you a small fortune in repairs to keep it going.

Here are a couple of tips to make sure you select a good and reliable vehicle.

Have a think about what you really need the car for

  • Getting to and from work
  • Just going to the shops once a week
  • Picking up the kids and shuffling them around to sporting events, picking up friends etc basically a little bus service.
  • Taking long trips.
  • Driving off road
  • Carrying loads, tools equipment etc
  • An aspirational buy, because you want it

Once you have thought about the category you need, you can google the category you are after

For Example

Google – Best 4WD Australia and amongst the listings you will find which is one listing  amongst many that you can research vehicles in your chosen category.

There is enough information online these days to allow as much or as little research as you would care to make.

Ask your Mechanic

Another good source of information is your mechanic. If you have a good mechanic that has an establish business, he can give an opinion on the vehicles you are thinking about. The insight the mechanic has is

  • Common faults
  • Parts and servicing costs

Ongoing Service Costs

These are important things to consider as some vehicles require more serving than others, use more expensive oils and have more expensive parts. Not only may the part be more expensive, but the car and engine design are such that simple replacement items like fuel filters and spark plugs may require considerable labour to replace them.

For example, some cars have in tank fuel filters, requiring the rear seats be pulled out and or the fuel tank dropped out to replace them.

Mechanic Labour rates are commonly between $100 per hour to over $145 per hour in dealerships. So, you need to consider the ongoing cost of your next vehicle purchase not just the upfront cost.

Tyre & Wheel Replacement

Tyre replacement is also a forgotten ongoing expense that people do not factor in when making a purchasing decision. There are many cars that come out today with tyres that are very expensive to replace. It’s not only the sports cars, but SUV, 4WD vehicles and utes. Whilst 20,21,22,23 and 24-inch wheels may look Kool on the car you are looking at, consider the following points:

  • Tyre Replacement costs can exceed $500 per tyre
  • Are the wheels load rated for your vehicle? If not, they will all require replacing.
  • Is the spare tyre the same as the tyres on the car? If not, you may need to buy another.
  • to match.
  • Does the car have a space saver tyre as a spare and will it go on the now modified car?

Some of the ongoing running and maintenance costs need to be considered carefully before you part with your money, particularly if changes will require your car being towed every time you have a puncture.

Finding the right car for you.

If you have done all your research and have your budget set to buy the car you need, the next step is to find the best deal for your money. When I say best deal, it is not about finding the cheapest, you need to consider the following.

  • Lowest genuine Kilometre reading
  • Latest model for your money
  • Location (distance from you)
  • Has it been garaged?
  • Is it parked at the beach; has it been driven on the beach?
  • A Revs check to see if money is owed and who the real owner is.
  • Is there an up to date service manual
  • Is it generally in good condition?

These are all basic points covered in the advertising and over the phone with the seller. Once you get to this point and you have had a look at the vehicle (interstate people may not be able too) and you feel it is worth buying, the final check should be the pre-purchase inspection.

Let’s face it, the seller will rarely tell you the car’s faults, they leave it to you to find or not find an issue with the vehicle. A high percentage of the time, the seller is doing his best to present an attractive vehicle which has always run trouble free and he doesn’t really want to part with it but he or she is going overseas and needs to sell it quickly (a favourite story we hear often).


On behalf of one of our customers we investigate a car that was showing very early signs of being a lemon. The girl (seller) had advertised the van on Gumtree and had a one owner low kilometre sales pitch. After further investigation, we found out the seller was actually a mechanical repair shop and were selling about five cars per month. However, on this particular vehicle, the odometer had been wound back. Armed with this information we helped get our customer his full money back very quickly, surprise, surprise!

How to buy the best vehicle

Unless you are a mechanic you need to invest in a pre-purchase inspection. Don’t run the risk of buying an expensive lemon. There are lots of sellers who will tell you what you want to hear, and after all it is your responsibility to check your purchase before you pay for it.

This is where and experienced mechanic/inspector is worth hundreds if not thousands in savings to you. It is the inspector’s job to show you exactly what you are buying, rather than the story you are being told by the seller.

As an Example

Below are the notes and some pictures from one of our most recent pre-purchase inspections. We were contracted on behalf of an interstate buyer who was very unhappy with the seller but very grateful to us for uncovering the truth. The car was represented as being in good condition.

PAINT FADING ALL AROUND THE CAR, MINOR SCRATCHES AND DENTS ALL AROUND. MOST OF THE PANELS ARE SUN DAMAGED. THE WHOLE CAR HAS BEEN SPRAYED PAINTED BEFORE. RUST UNDERNEATH THE CAR. Req. Front windscreen (Cracked) Req. Battery holder (Missing) All front suspension bushes need to be replaced. Req. LH rocker cover gasket kit (Seeping) Req. Both front seats need replacing (Damaged) Req. Door rubbers are not sitting in properly. Req. All door hinges are noisy Req. Sunroof motor is noisy Req. Sunroof cover lining is coming off. Req. Hood lining is coming off Req. LHF Indicator (Reflector is rusted) Req. RH Headlight bulb inop. Bonnet inner lining cover is damaged LH washer hose is disconnected Req. Radio and antenna doesn’t work Req. Floor rubbers in the boot (Missing) Req. Spare tyre and jack (missing) Req. Interior light is loose and not operational. Req. RHF and RHR doorknobs missing. Req. Loose wire hanging near the radiator Req. Crank pulley needs replacing (Falling apart) Req. Front shockers, boot kit and bump stop kit. (Damaged) Req. Sump gasket leaking Page 1/3

Req. Crank seal leaking Req. Transmission sump gasket leaking Req. Extension housing seal leaking. Req. Rear main seal leaking OIL IS LEAKING FROM EVERY SINGLE PART YOU CAN THINK OF!! Req. Both engine mounts (Saggy/ cracks all around) Req. Both fender lining clips (Missing) Req. Power steering pump leaking Req. Coolant level is very low. Suggest to get the pressure test done. Req. Both rear cv shafts possible diff as well Req. Rear struts Big chunk of the rear bumper is missing Req. Rear link pin bushes Req. Exhaust and exhaust hangers (Leaking) Req. Cover on top of the radiator is not sitting properly.


Leaking shock absorber

Steering boot torn

Bashed and rusted exhaust


  • Leaking shock absorber
  • Rusted Suspension parts
  • Bashed and rusted exhaust
  • Multiple oil Leaks from engine
  • Major Main seal leak.
  • Steering boot torn


Rusted Suspension parts

Major Main seal leak

There could easily be over $10,000 dollars’ worth of repairs and restoration to be done to this car which is not how it was represented in the advertisement nor during the conversation between the buyer and seller.

Do your homework and use an experienced mechanic for your pre-purchase inspection so you don’t end up with a lemon.

Safe and Happy Driving from Grant and the Team at


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