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Car buyer’s checklist


Buying a new car is exciting, but it can also be daunting. If you’re unsure of where to start, relax—this checklist covers the main factors that affect the purchase of a new or used car. To get the most bang for your buck without compromising on safety or performance, you need to read this before you shake hands on a deal.

Do your homework

Research is key: being well informed helps you feel less stressed and smooths the entire buying process. Before you even visit a dealer or seller, think about your specific needs, from the size of the car to its special features. Next, set your budget (and its limits!) and prioritise your must-haves over those luxury extras. Now you can start focusing on the car itself.

A thorough look at makes and models across the market will set some parameters and simplify your decision-making. You may love the look and convenience of a compact car, but if you’re a mum-slash-taxi, forget it! You have to be realistic, but nailing this initial stage can also be enjoyable—and being prepared pays off.

Crunch the numbers

The true cost of a new car doesn’t start and end with the purchase price—can you afford to keep the car on the road? Once you’ve determined how much you can spend on finance repayments, factor in your running costs.

For a realistic estimate of your monthly expenses, consider:

  • registration and insurance
  • the car’s warranty
  • servicing costs, including maintenance, repair and buying specific parts
  • petrol costs and the car’s fuel economy
  • tyres and oil.

Arrange your finance

Before approaching a dealer, seek expert advice and secure your own finance—a pre-approved loan is as good as cash. You’ll not only know exactly what you can afford and be less likely to overreach, but also strengthen your bargaining position.

Borrow only what you can maintain and know the risks. Extremely low interest-rate offers usually require you to spend more than necessary in the long run, mainly to offset the loss of interest to the financier. Beware of unusually quick or easy loans, too, as they often entail high-interest rates.

Go for a spin

Found a car you love? Whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle, always request a test drive. This is the only way to get a feel for the car before you buy. Have fun, but be mindful not to let your enthusiasm influence your experience.

Ask the dealer whether you can choose your own route (rather than follow directions) and try to include a range of road and traffic conditions. You’re trying to establish whether the car suits you, not the other way around.

As you drive, think about:

  • the steering, handling and visibility—do you feel safe and confident?
  • the brakes—does the car slow effectively and in a straight line?
  • the transmission and suspension—are these quiet and smooth?
  • the engine—are the acceleration and deceleration adequate for the car’s size?
  • safety features and driver aids—do these work and do you need them?

Protect yourself in private sales

When you buy a used car, you have to rely on your own reason and knowledge, so be very cautious. Private sales are unregulated and therefore expose you to a lot of risk. Conduct the appropriate background checks and don’t let the seller rush you.

To get value for money and enjoy peace of mind, engage an independent, qualified mechanic to inspect the car and identify problems. If you’re taking a test drive, ask to see a current green slip. The vehicle should have all the correct paperwork, so always check:

  • the vehicle identification number (VIN) and registration—match these to the vehicle make and model
  • the car’s validity—check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)for any outstanding finance and obtain the car’s history report for evidence of major accidents
  • the logbook—confirm that the car has had regular services.

Strengthen your bargaining stance

To put yourself in the best position to negotiate, shop around by exploring a few different options for purchase. Demonstrator vehicles can be an affordable option, but you can often get a great deal on a brand-new car. Do your research and hone your bargaining skills—the savings may surprise you!

Want to save time and avoid hassle? Consider using a car-buying service such as Melbourne Finance. Centralised car brokers typically put your desired vehicle out to tender, targeting a network of different dealers to get you the best price. They can also arrange a test drive and manage your trade-in, making the deal even more attractive.

Seek more information

Need more details? As automotive experts with years of industry experience, our finance consultants can provide you with frank and effective advice on the best loan option and lender for you or your company.  

Give us a call on 1300 132 664 and you’ll be on the road in no time!