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Looking after your car

Quick Tips:

  • Maximise reliability.
  • Protect value.
  • Regular checks.
  • Service car.
  • Budget for repairs.
  • Tyre pressure.

Once you’ve bought a car, you’ll need to keep it in good condition if you want to maximise its reliability and safety and get top value when you sell it. A simple maintenance routine will go a long way to extending the trouble-free life of your vehicle.

Preventative Maintenance Daily

  • Walk around your car and check the tyres all appear to have even pressure.
  • On start-up, check all the gauges and warning lights are operating normally. Monitor them frequently during driving too.
  • Note any abnormalities such as sluggish or difficult start-up, or any unusual noises. Get your mechanic to check anything unusual.
  • Check that all exterior lights are working. When parking the car in the garage at night, simply close the garage door, turn the ignition and lights on, and check their reflection against the walls. Don’t run the car’s engine in a closed garage.

Weekly, or prior to a long trip

  • Check all oil and fluid levels. Include the engine oil, auto transmission fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid, brake and clutch, battery and windscreen washer fluid.
  • Learn how to do a simple, visual inspection under the bonnet to identify deterioration or changes you want your mechanic to investigate.
  • See your car manual, or at your next service ask the mechanic to show you what components you can check regularly. Consider doing a car care course.
  • Your owner’s manual and the RACQ leaflet Facts on Routine Maintenancegive more information on carrying out the above checks.


Cleaning and polishing the exterior and interior of the car regularly will:

  • enhance its appearance
  • keep paintwork from deteriorating
  • help prevent rust, and
  • help preserve its value.

Tyre pressure

  • Check tyre pressure when the tyres are cool (recommended tyre pressure for normal driving will be found on the tyre placard and in the owner’s handbook.)
  • Incorrect tyre pressure reduces tyre life, affects fuel consumption and vehicle handling. I nvest in a tyre pressure gauge or if you haven’t travelled more than a couple of kilometres, you can check your tyre pressure when you fill up with fuel.
  •   Don’t forget to check the spare tyre from time to time as well. It should be given a little higher pressure than those on the road to compensate for pressure loss over time.


It pays to have your car serviced regularly. Regular servicing keeps down long term repair costs and can draw attention to minor repairs which will help prevent more costly ones later on.
By following the manufacturer’s service schedule and service intervals, your car will receive the correct ongoing maintenance.
Select a reputable service centre that has the expertise and the equipment to service your particular make of car.
Generally, as a car gets older wear and tear takes its toll – you can count on spending more money on unscheduled repairs to maintain its reliability.
When having your car serviced, ask your repairer to advise you of any repairs that may be imminent. This will allow you to factor into your finances these future repair costs.


Buying a used car

Quick Tips:

  • Use licensed dealers.
  • Use your one day cooling-off period to reflect.
  • Understand the statutory warranty.
  • Get an independent inspection.
  • Check the contract.
  • Check rego certificate.

Buying from a licensed trader

All motor dealers selling used cars in Queensland must be licensed, their licence must be clearly displayed at their place of business.  If you have any doubts, Fair Trading keeps a public register that you can inspect and take copies for a fee.

Buying through licensed motor dealers may be more expensive than from a private seller but it offers you greater protection. The new Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 extends that protection further. There is:

  • a cooling-off period of 1 business day
  • a statutory warranty in certain circumstances (see next section), and
  • guarantee of clear title, which means you are protected against having the car repossessed if anyone owes money on the car or the vehicle turns out to be stolen.

Look carefully at the motor dealer’s advertisements or displays to see whether they state if a car is on consignment for a private seller or not, a car on consignment for a private seller does not have statutory warranty or a cooling-off period.

Water Damage Warnings on REVS
Water damaged cars will now be revealed on the Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) i.e:

  • a car is insured for water damage, and
  • the water damage is so severe that it is uneconomical to repair, ie. written off
  • it is then sold by, or on behalf of, an insurance company, and
  • it was sold in Queensland since 1 March 2001.

However, be aware that a water damaged car will not appear on REVS if it hasn’t met all of the above criteria.

Motor dealer must disclose to you before the sale if a vehicle is water damaged and appears on REVS. You must sign and acknowledge this in writing. Contact the Office of Fair Trading on 13 13 04 for more information.

Regardless of whether you have been warned about water damage, an independent inspection is strongly recommended to check for signs of long-term problems such as rust and electrical faults.

Statutory warranty
Your statutory warranty guarantees that the warrantor repairs certain defects, discovered after buying the car, free of charge during the warranty period. Even if the motor dealer offers other types of warranties, you are still entitled to the statutory warranty at no cost.

You are NOT entitled to a warranty on some defects relating to:

  • tyres
  • battery
  • lights
  • radiator hoses
  • installed radios, tape and CD players
  • air bags
  • paintwork or upholstery that were obvious at the time of sale
  • any problems caused by your misuse or neglect eg. allowing the engine to run out of oil or water
  • the air conditioning unit in vehicles greater than 10 years old or more than 160,000km.

You will not receive a statutory warranty from a motor dealer or auctioneer if you are buying a motorbike, caravan, commercial vehicle, or a used vehicle being sold on consignment for a private seller.

A three-month or 5,000km warranty (whichever comes first) covers a used car with an odometer reading under 160,000km and manufactured less than 10 years before the sale date.

A one-month or 1,000km warranty (whichever comes first) covers a used car with an odometer reading above 160,000km or manufactured more than 10 years before the sale date.

You must report any defects in writing to the motor dealer during the warranty period and return the vehicle to the dealership or to a place of repair nominated by the dealer. The motor dealer must respond to your letter within five business days after receiving it, provided you have returned the vehicle.

If you receive no response, you can assume the dealer has accepted responsibility to repair the car under the statutory warranty.

Try to resolve a complaint about the car’s statutory warranty with the motor dealer through their complaint process first. Telephone or write to the motor dealer and explain the problem as soon as you can. If you can’t resolve the dispute with the motor dealer you can contact Fair Trading, RACQ or MTA-Q to discuss your options.

Before the warranty expires, have a full mechanical inspection by an independent operator so any problems are identified during the warranty period.

If your vehicle requires repairs under statutory warranty, but it is located more than 200kms from the motor dealer/auctioneer it was purchased from at the time the defect notice is given, the vehicle is to be taken to the nearest qualified repairer.

However, the motor dealer/auctioneer may prefer to nominate another qualified repairer, in which case, they are responsible for the delivery costs of transporting the vehicle to that repairer.

Cooling-off period
In most situations you get a one-business day cooling-off period when you buy a used car from a licensed dealer, to make sure the car you plan to buy is right for you and your budget. If you do change your mind the dealer is entitled to retain up to $100 of the deposit paid. If you buy the car at auction, or the car is sold on consignment for a private seller, a cooling-off period does NOT apply.

During the cooling-off period, you have the right to take the car for a test drive and, if you haven’t already arranged one, an independent mechanical inspection. If you take the car away for any other reason, the cooling-off period no longer applies. Don’t be forced to take possession of the car. Legally, once you take possession of the car, the motor dealer can make you comply with the contract, buy the car and lose your cooling-off rights.

If you don’t want to buy the car for any reason, you must put this in writing to the motor dealer before the cooling-off period ends. You may lose $100 of your deposit, but it is better than being stuck with a car that you don’t want or can’t afford. If you buy the car, the deposit is deducted from the sale price.

During the cooling-off period, the motor dealer can give a purchase option on the car to another potential buyer in case you decide not to buy the car.

More information about buying a used car is available in the Glovebox Guide.


How to buy a car

Quick tips:

  • List needs & wants.
  • Research market.
  • Stick to budget.
  • Check Insurance.
  • Shop around.
  • Avoid pressure.

The key to getting a good deal is doing your homework before you hit the car yards. Research the market to find out what is available at what price so you can set your sights on a realistic purchase.

Write a list of your needs and wants, and be realistic about what you will use the car for. You may have always wanted a flash 4WD but if all you are doing is driving around town it may not suit your needs and your budget.

Unusual models can be expensive to insure and repair, and spare parts may be difficult to obtain, whereas the more popular models, which may seem boring, are generally cheaper to insure and fix, as spare parts are less expensive and easier to obtain. Remember, passenger cars manufactured after 1986 run on unleaded fuel, which is cheaper than lead replacement petrol.

Talk to friends and workmates who are experienced car owners. Start looking at the newspapers for car ads and on the Internet to compare prices. Car magazines will also provide some detailed information about cars’ performance, specifications and prices.

Be prepared to do the rounds of car yards and car dealers to see what is out there, and allow yourself time to compare deals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you want to know more about a car on sale.

Once you’ve done your research you can realistically decide exactly what it is you are looking for.

When you are clear about what you need, it is time to set yourself a budget. Use the plan below. Remember the expense doesn’t stop at the car purchase; consider insurance, service and repairs and fuel costs. Ongoing maintenance may be higher for older cars or high kilometre cars.

Budget Plan

Asking price




REVS certificate


Pre-purchase inspection fee


Transfer fee


Stamp duty






Servicing and repair


Ongoing costs (such as fuel, tyres, parts, RACQ  membership)

  • Consider the availability and cost of spare parts – especially for imported or older vehicles.
  • Some compulsory and standard charges to be aware of are:
  • Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance and registration fee – paid when the vehicle is registered
  • Government stamp duty at 2% of the market value – for buyers of new and used cars
  • Transfer fee – for buyers of used cars, and
  • Dealer delivery charge – for buyers of new cars.

See the Queensland Transport web site for more information on vehicle registration and CTP.

The type of insurance that you choose may depend upon the car you buy and what you can afford.

Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance is the only form of insurance that is compulsory. It is paid each year along with the vehicle registration fee. CTP protects you against any claims that could arise because of death or injury to other people caused by the negligence of anyone driving your car. It does NOT cover the driver of your car or damage to vehicles or property. You have a choice of CTP insurers.

Other types of motorcar insurance protect you against costs and liabilities if you are in an accident or your car is stolen, damaged or vandalised. Shop around for this insurance as policies and premiums can vary. Insurance will be more costly for cars bought on credit, modified cars or sports cars, and for drivers under the age of 25.

Get a firm insurance quote before buying the car. Arrange a cover note from an insurance company before taking delivery of the car.
Insurance options include:

Comprehensive Insurance

  • Comprehensive Insurance offers you the greatest protection. It covers you against fire and theft as well as damage to your car, other cars and property. If you borrow money to buy your car, it is advisable to have this type of insurance to protect your own financial interests.

Third Party Property, Fire and Theft Insurance

  • Third Party Property, Fire and Theft Insurance (‘extended’ Third Party Property Insurance) covers you against accidental damage to other cars or property if you cause an accident. Your car isn’t covered for any accident damage but it is covered against fire or theft.

Third Party Property Insurance

  • Third Party Porperty Insurance covers you against damage caused to other cars and property. This insurance doesn’t give you any protection for your car. However, it is recommended that you have this level of insurance as a minimum – without this insurance, damage caused to an expensive vehicle by you in an accident could be costly.

Ask for information on no fault insurance cover, as some policies may also cover collision damage to your car to a limited amount if it is the fault of an uninsured driver. Other conditions may also apply.
Check the following before taking the insurance:

  • Driver(s) – Who is allowed to drive your car under the policy?
  • Policy excess – What do you pay every time you make a claim? The excess may be related to the age of the driver or it may be a standard amount.
  • Vehicle value – What will you be paid if your vehicle is written off or stolen and never recovered? Is your vehicle insured for market value or an agreed fixed amount? Find out how this value is calculated.
  • Exclusions – What is excluded from the coverage?
  • Rating or no-claims discount – Insurers usually give customers a numerical rating with premiums charged according to that rating. A Rating One driver is charged the lowest premium. When you first take out insurance you will probably start on Rating Six and improve one rating each year if you don’t make a claim.

Your policy may be cancelled or your claim refused if:

  • you are involved in an accident and you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • you are driving illegally, or
  • you don’t list the following in the Duty of Disclosure section:
    Modifications to your car
    previous accidents
    prior driving convictions or offences, and
    personal disabilities

Obtaining a loan
As with many car buyers faced with the costs of buying a car, you may need a loan. Carefully work out how much you can afford comfortably in loan repayments each month remembering that routine maintenance, running costs and repairs can average $65 – $75 per week.
Obtaining finance to purchase a car will add to the cost of the vehicle, so try to keep the amount borrowed to the minimum amount necessary. Most car traders offer to arrange finance but it may be cheaper to obtain your own. Always take time to shop around for the best deal and competitive interest rates.
Before you agree on a loan, make sure you understand:

  • the type of loan
  • all fees and interest rates
  • the monthly repayment rates and due date.
  • the total amount you will have paid at the end of the loan period, and
  • insurance requirements.

Under the Consumer Credit Code, all credit providers must tell you what your rights and responsibilities are in any credit arrangement. They are required to include all relevant information in a written contract, including interest rates, fees, commissions and other important issues. Read the contract; ask any questions you may have so that you know what you are liable for.

Allow plenty of time to shop around and don’t give in to pressure to buy a particular car. Be wary of the ‘bargain’ that is priced much lower than the average price for that model. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There are several car-buying options available, but buying from a reputable, licensed car dealer offers the greatest protection.

  • Getting the absolute cheapest price may exclude you from receiving some additional benefits. Dealers value-add on the sale of cars where their margins allow. You may have to negotiate on both the price of the car and on repairs needed which are identified during any pre-purchase inspection, and which aren’t covered by a statutory warranty.
  • Be wary of unrealistic trade-in offers. The price of the car could be increased to cover the difference. Compare the changeover price between dealers to work out the best deal. Try to negotiate to keep your trade-in until the car you are buying is ready for delivery.
  • Never negotiate half-heartedly. If the car meets your needs and you are ready to buy – go for it, but make sure the person you are negotiating with has the authority to make the decisions and authorise the sale. In dealerships the salesperson may go back and forth taking your offers to the manager. If necessary, invite the manager to join you.
  • During negotiations keep notes of offers and promises so you can review them during the conversation and be clear about what has been offered.
  • Get any agreements or promises in writing and signed by the seller before you sign the contract.
  • Know your financial limit and stick to it. If in the end you can’t get the price you want, be prepared to walk away – it is not the car for you if you can’t afford it.
  • Don’t let a motor dealer put you under undue pressure to buy a car, if this happens a dealer can face significant penalties. Contact your local Office of Fair Trading for more advice.

Fuel Consumption Guide

The Fuel Consumption Guide Database provides comparative data on the fuel consumption of many vehicles sold in Australia between 1986 and 2003. The database includes passenger cars and four-wheel drives, and light commercial vehicles up to 2.7 tonnes gross vehicle mass.

View Fuel Guide