7 Steps To Buying Used Cars in Adelaide

By Luke Caesar - General Manager - July 14, 2017

7 Steps To Buying Used Cars in Adelaide

Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases you make, aside from buying a home.

So it deserves some consideration before you commit, to make sure that that the car you buy will live up to your expectations and you’ll keep it for a while.

There’s some key things you’ll want to consider before you commit to buying a used car in Adelaide.

To help to make your decision easier, our car buying manager has put together a comprehensive list of things you should consider before purchasing your next car.

Buying a Used Car In Adelaide: Your 7-step Checklist

When you're ready to buy your next car in Adelaide, you don't want to end up with a dud, or find that you've got a car that's not perfectly suitable for you. By following this 7 step process to choosing your next vehicle purchase, you'll get a car that's the perfect fit.

1.What might you use your new used car for in Adelaide?

The number one consideration when buying a car is that it’ll be perfect for everything you need it to do.

If you’re just getting about town and you don’t need to carry passengers, a little hatchback or coupe is perfect. Maybe you want something a bit sporty, or you just want a car that’s super cheap to run.

However, if you have a large family, you’ll need a bit more space. You don’t have to get stuck with an ugly people mover, there’s lots of larger car options, whether you choose a mid-size car like the Honda Civic, or something larger like an SUV.

If you travel off-road, you’ll need a car that’s up to the challenge with good suspension and 4wd capability. Remember you’ll probably have your car for at least 4-5 years, so think ahead to what you might be doing in the future too.

The final consideration is whether you’ll need to tow a trailer or caravan. If you think you will, make sure the car is powerful enough and has a tow ball or can easily be fitted with one.

2. How much should you spend?

Before you even start to think about what you’ll use the car for, you’ve probably already got an idea of how much you’re willing to spend on a second hand car.

It may pay to review this amount after you look at the other considerations in this list, so that you can be sure that the car’s going to meet your requirements.

Most people do some research regarding their finance options online before beginning the search for the ideal car. This way you can get an idea of how much you can afford.

Using an online loan calculator with some basic information about your finances and potential car budget, you can get a rough quote on what you might expect your monthly payments to be if you choose to finance the car.

3. Safety features

One key advantage of buying a used car over a brand new car is that there’s a lot more information available on how the vehicle will perform in a crash in real world conditions.

Even though safety isn’t always the first thing you think of when you’re picking out your next car, it’s definitely worth considering. Used Car Safety Ratings are published each year. This report contains the most recent data from actual police reports on crashes that occur in the real world, in all types of driving conditions.

These ratings are different from the ANCAP safety ratings, which are created for brand new cars and based on laboratory test data.

When buying a car, there’s some safety features to look for that can help you to avoid a crash, as well as minimising injury if one does occur.

Safety Features to ask for are:

Auto emergency braking, including pedestrian detection.

AEB will sense slow or stopped traffic ahead and urgently applies the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond. Forward collision warnings will usually prompt you to respond before the AEB is activated. To find out more about the specific features of the AEB on the car you want to buy, check the owner’s manual.

Lane departure warning

Initially designed for truck drivers on long hauls, lane departure warning systems aren’t available in many older family cars.

If you’re driving on a road with clearly marked lines, video cameras (mounted behind the windshield), infrared sensors (behind the windscreen or under the car) or laser sensors (on the front of the car) will detect when you move out of the lane and sign a warning.

The warning is usually an audible sound, but some cars have tactfully employed vibrations in the seat or steering wheel so only the driver is notified of the transgressions. Warnings are overridden if you indicate to turn or change lanes. You can usually choose to disable the system if you choose to too.

If you’ve got your heart set on a model that doesn’t have lane departure warning you can install an aftermarket product such as Mobile Eye which gives you additional features such as speed limit and pedestrian & bicycle collision warnings too.

Some post 2004 cars will also have lane keeping technology which uses electric power steering to counter-turn the wheel, keeping you within your lane.

Blind spot warning

A blind spot warning system is a camera or radar based system that warns you when an object enters your blind spot. You’ll usually be given a warning in the corner of the rear view mirror.

Traction control

This feature will optimise grip and stability during acceleration by measuring wheel rotation, allowing the car to accelerate smoothly even on slippery surfaces.

Brake assist

Brake assist will work in combination with ABS to make rapid braking as effective as possible in an emergency situation.

Intelligent speed assist

This handy feature notifies you when you exceed the speed limit on a given section of road.

More sophisticated than the cruise control or speed limiting function you self-determine, it will determine your location by GPS, cross-referencing this with a digital road map containing speed limit information for each road.

You’ll be given an audio or visual warning if you’re over the speed limit.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS):

ABS is an electronic and hydraulic braking system. It monitors the speed of the wheels to determine when to engage the brakes.

When rapid deceleration indicates that the wheels have locked up, the ABS controller will automatically apply variable braking pressure to ensure that the car slows rapidly, without the wheels locking.

This system maintains the vehicle’s traction on the road surface, and allows the car to stop safely without skidding.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

This is a requirement in all cars built since 2012. It helps the driver to avoid crashes by reducing the danger of skidding, or loss of control resulting from oversteering. It’s only activated if the driver loses control of the vehicle, using computer controlled technology and information from sensors to bring the car safely back on track.

4. Mechanic check

When buying a second hand car through a private sale or dealership, it pays to have a mechanic that you trust check over the car to make sure everything is in good condition.

If there’s a major service due soon you may be able to negotiate a discount on the car price, or arrange for the seller to have the service taken care of before you buy.

A good mechanic will able to check for any potentially expensive red flags and advise you on how long it’ll be until the tyres need replacing and so on.

If your mechanic can’t get to look at the car, getting an RAA inspection will ensure you’ve covered all the bases.

Any good dealer or seller will let you take the car to the local RAA Approved Repairer for an inspection.

5. Registration

If you buy from a dealer they’ll usually take care of the transfer of registration paperwork. However if you buy your car in a private sale, remember it’s the responsibility of the purchaser to register the transfer of ownership within 14 days of the sale.


If you’re buying from a dealer, they must guarantee that the vehicle doesn’t have finance owing and you can purchase it without any issues.

If you do buy through a private sale, you should check the PPSR to make sure that there isn’t a loan secured against the car, and that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen.

To complete a PPSR search you’ll need to know the VIN, chassis number or manufacturer’s number. If you’d prefer to call than complete the quick online form the number is 1300 007 777.

When you do this it pays to check the vehicle registration expiry date online, and find at the same time if the car has been stolen, written-off or defected. You can also call 13 10 84 to get the registration information.

7. Where to buy?

Before you buy a car, you’ll want to decide how you’re going to finance it - whether you have cash, or if you need a loan for your new car.

If you need a car loan to get the car you want to buy, you’ll want to line up your options before you start shopping around. That way you’ll know if the finance the dealer offers is competitive or if you’re better off getting a loan through a car loan broker or bank.

When you arrange your car finance pre approval, you may want to complete an online application, or you may prefer to visit a broker or bank in person. It pays to make sure you can use your finance at a dealer, auction or private sale to keep your options open.

Where you choose to buy your car will depend on how confident you are about purchasing, and also on the type of car that you are looking for. Private sales can offer a great opportunity to save, especially if the seller is in a hurry to sell their car.

You can also get a great deal at an auction, such as a government auction, on a car that has done a limited number of kilometres.

When you buy privately or through an auction you don’t have to option to trade in your current vehicle.

Know your rights as a buyer

One benefit of buying from a dealer is that you will have a 2 day cooling off period after the purchase contract is signed. You’ll also be protected by a statutory warranty.

In SA by law here’s what you are entitled to:

  • For vehicles costing $3000-$6000, the warranty covers the first of 3,000 km travelled, or 2 months from the purchase date.
  • For a car priced at over $6,000 the warranty covers 5,000km or 3 months after the purchase date.

There’s no warranty if the vehicle has done over 200,000k before the sale, or it was registered more than 15 years ago. If you do need repairs done in this time the warranty will be extended for the amount of time the dealer has the vehicle.

You're ready to start

Now you know exactly what steps you’ll need to take to buy a used car in Adelaide, it’s time to find out about your car finance options, or maybe start browsing for your new car.

If you have any questions about car buying or you’re looking for someone to take the work out of the process for you, talk to one of our team and we’ll answer your questions.

Before you know it you’ll be in your perfect used car cruising around the streets of Adelaide.