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Buying Tips

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.