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Private purchase vs dealership – Your options explained

Think choosing which car to buy is the hardest part of the process? Think again. With private sales and dealership purchases available, choosing where to buy your new car can be just as challenging. Thankfully, we’re here to help you out. Here are some of the things to consider before making a move.

Private sales

If you’re after a wide range of options, purchasing your new car privately might be the way to go. However, because the normal statutory warranties don’t apply, it’s a process that can be fraught with risk. To avoid buying a lemon, you should always:

  • Make a thorough inspection. And by thorough, we mean thorough. Look under the bonnet, under the car and inside to ensure you’re aware of all the potential issues that come along with the car. You should also arrange an independent inspection by a mechanic to ensure everything’s as it should be – your state’s motoring authority should be able to help if you don’t have access to an expert mechanic.
  • Check there’s no money owing on the car. A simple call to the vehicle title registry or REV’s in the state the car is registered in should take care of this.
  • Ensure the seller is the legal owner. You’re well within your rights to inspect the seller’s driver’s licence and compare the details with those on the rego documents. While you’re at it, check the car’s compliance plate and ensure the VIN number, date of manufacture and number plates all match up.
  • Take a test drive. As well as considering how well the car drives, make sure you check the seatbelts, lights, equipment and accessories and assess the comfort of the seats.
  • Ask questions about the vehicle’s history. How many owners have there been? Has it been involved in any accidents? What’s the mileage? How much does it cost to fill? What safety features does it have? It’s also a good idea to invest in a car history report to ensure you have all the relevant mileage and accident history from a trusted external source.


Buying from a dealer is generally more expensive than a private sale but it comes with some advantages. However, there are still a few things you should do to protect yourself, including:

  • Check the warranty. Cars sold at a dealership come with statutory warranties, but what’s covered can differ from dealer to dealer. Make sure you know what is and isn’t covered, as well as how long your warranty will last.
  • Get across the basics. Dealers generally have to display a form on the car’s dashboard or windscreen that provides basic info like the year of manufacture, odometer reading and warranty details. Make sure it’s all up to scratch.
  • Ensure the car is debt free. When you buy from a dealer, they’re legally obligated to guarantee that the car’s debt free. If they can’t prove it, walk away.
  • Take a test drive. Just like with a private sale, a test drive will help you work out what you do and don’t like about the car. Take your time and ensure your drive is long enough to get a feel for how it handles at different speeds.

Want a new car but don’t know where to start?

We can help take the hassle out of car shopping with our professional Car Buying Service. Let us know what car you’d like to buy, we’ll put it out to tender and thanks to our national fleet discounts, we’ll deliver the best deal around. Give us a call to learn more.