TLC banner Link to home page Link to Contact page Link to feedback page Link to Site Map


The Buying & Selling of an Older Vehicle

There are basically two ways you can go about obtaining or getting rid of a second hand car. You can deal with a registered car yard and have the benefits registration offers, or deal privately in a effort to obtain a higher price.

How To Go About Buying a Vehicle

Registered car yards offer advantages for both buyers and sellers.
As a buyer you are protected to the extent that all cars sold by a dealer must be roadworthy (by certificate) and have clear title of ownership.
This means the car that you are buying is safe to drive and not a stolen car or encumbered (money owing) and that you are legally the new owner. Many car yards also offer limited guarantees on second-hand cars. This means you are covered by the dealer if something goes wrong with the car in the first few months after your purchase, but the length of time and the guarantee depends on how much you pay for the car in the first place. You are possibly investing your hard earned money, you need to be sure that particular reference is made to exact warranties applying to your purchase. Some warranties state that replacement parts are supplied at wholesale prices and labour at price (that is you pay). Ensure that you understand who is actually paying for what, should anything go wrong. However you can also take out additional insurance warranty for specific period or repairs.

Buying through a dealer gives you these benefits, but in the end you pay for them. Dealers have to make some money on every vehicle they buy and sell, so naturally a dealer’s price for an older vehicle will be more than the original owner sold it to the dealer. Often the dealer brought the vehicle through a wholesale dealer, another middle man making a cop as well.

Buying a car privately usually means that you can get a good deal, but it does require a lot more work on your part and you will also have to arrange your own finance. The single biggest problem with buying a second-hand vehicle privately, is ensuring that the vehicle has clear title. In other words, you must check that the vehicle is actually owned by the person selling it and not owned by someone else, usually a finance company. You can check the vehicle’s ownership via REVS, a service of the transport department, for a small fee and peace of mind. Remember the registration certificate is not proof of ownership.

If the vehicle is under hire purchase, the finance company will have registered the fact with the relevant state registrar of titles.
If the vehicle is not encumbered, then you will be quite safe, but it’s still a good idea to check with the police to see if it’s a stolen unit and ask the seller to prove that he owns it by showing you the receipt when he originally purchased it.
After you purchase your new pride and joy, you don’t want someone turning up to repossess it on you and you loose your money and the seller has left town!

Initial Points to be Considered

Do you think that you have found the right car of you dreams or maybe you need to know how much money you can afford/borrow before you start looking.

Calculate your deposit -- the bigger the better. Do you have a particular car in mind ? Is the price inclusive of extras and on-road charges to calculate the total cost. Should you need to borrow, it helps for you to be prepared. Compile a list of your existing loans; consider all your assets and debt cards, credit cards and store cards. Have a copy of the last statements along with your employee information, pay slips, with contact numbers and full address on hand when applying for a loan.

What To Look For When Buying a Second Hand Vehicle

Identifying whether a car is what it perports to be is obviously the first step you take when examining a car you are thinking of buying. But there’s a lot more to it than that! "Buyer beware" is the motto and this means you have to examine any purchase thoroughly, take everything the seller (be it a dealer or private) says with a grain of salt, if necessary, have the car checked by professionals at your own expense, be it your own mechanic or a motoring association report (eg. RACQ). It is important to check the mechanical operation of the car as well as the condition of the bodywork and the interior and to remember that the vendor has probably had the vehicle detailed to look it’s best.

Once you have made all the necessary checks and you are satisfied the vehicle you favour is genuine, has clear title and is in good condition, or at least you know exactly what you are buying, don’t spent too much time making up your mind.
There’s nothing more frustrating to a seller than to have a potential buyer hanging around for days, unable or unwilling to make a decision.
If you decide to buy, make the necessary arrangements quickly, pay the money and arrange for the transfer of registration. It’s usual for the seller to send the forms into the appropriate authority after both of you have signed them as ultimately the vehicle is still the responsibility of the seller until the paperwork is processed by the department. Above all, make sure you get a receipt showing the date of purchase, the full price paid, the make and model of the vehicle, the engine number and registration number.
Finally, do not drive the car until you have arranged a insurance cover note (at lease for third party insurance) with an insurance company of your choice.

So, here is a check list you can use when examining a second hand vehicle.

Second Hand Vehicle Checklist

Check for oil leaks on the ground under the motor and on the engine itself. A badly leaking engine will not pass roadworthy.
Check for exhaust smoke when the engine is revved. Excessive blue smoke can mean worn piston rings, a costly repair job.
Check the oil in the sump with the dipstick. If it is milky it could mean water is leaking into the engine, possibly a blown head gasket, another big problem.

If any or all of these problems are present, it is important that you have a mechanic look at the engine.


  Radiator & Cooling System

Check for rust stains or moisture coming from the radiator core, hose connections or the water pump. If there are, call in an expert.


  Clutch - Manual Transmission

Sit in the car, depress the clutch pedal, select first gear and start the engine with the hand brake on. Let the clutch out slowly and if the clutch is OK , the engine will stall. If it doesn't stall, the clutch will at least need adjusting. If however whilst on a test drive, going up a hill in gear and the engine appears to be revving and you are getting nowhere, that is an indication that the clutch is worn.


  Automatic Transmission

Check the transmission oil on the dip stick whilst the vehicle is running. The oil should be transparent red. If it is dark and smells burnt, the auto may need an overhaul, a costly repair job.


  Exhaust System

Check for exhaust leaks in the engine bay and from under the vehicle. Check for corrosion in the muffler and exhaust pipes by scraping any suspect areas with a screwdriver. A faulty exhaust will emit dangerous fumes and will not pass a roadworthy.


Check the master cylinder for the fluid level. If it’s low, it may mean a leak in the system. Look under the vehicle behind the wheel, if there is oil on the rear of the tyres, there is a leak in the system, this will need to be checked out and will not pass roadworthy.
Sit in the vehicle, depress the brake pedal to about halfway and hold it there; if the pedal fades to the floor, then there is a leakage in the master cylinder or the system.
A spongy pedal could mean air in the system and needs to be bled and or serviced.

Check the hand brake, it should hold the vehicle on a small hill, when pulled halfway on.


Check the overall condition of the front and rear suspension components by examining the state of any rubber bushes, bump rubbers, seals and insulators. Also jack up each front wheel off the ground and have someone shake the wheel whilst you check it underneath for excessive movement in the front end and steering joints. If there is any problem in this area the vehicle will not pass a roadworthy.

Check the tyres for uneven wear pattern which could be caused by loose joints or a bad wheel alignment.



Go through the electrical system by checking each light, switch and control in turn. Don’t forget to check the high beam, the horn, the demister or heater and the windscreen wipers (front and back). Check the condition of the battery by looking for corrosion on the terminals, acid spills on the battery tray, or headlight strength fluctuations when the engine is revved.


  Body & Paint Check
Here you are looking for evidence of major body repairs that would suggest that the vehicle may have been in an accident. Evidence of the repair does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with the vehicle, only that repairs have been carried out and you should make a more thorough check out of the structural frame of the vehicle.
Check for discrepancies which stem from careless or un-tradesman-like repairs. Things like the absence of washers or lock washers on screws, a mixture of screw head types and sizes where there shouldn't be and uneven body panel gaps all indicate the vehicle has been worked on, perhaps by unqualified amateurs.
Use the technique of "sighting-off" to check the major body panels for alignment and fit. Stand well away from the vehicle, at the front or back and look down the side of the vehicle at an acute angle. You will soon see if any panel is out of place and if it is, you can investigate further.
Check out the action of all the doors. Do they open and close properly? Do they latch and grab, are the locks sticky? Open each door, grab it at the outer edge and check the wear in the hinges by trying to move the door up and down. Badly worn hinges are a real problem.
What about the windows? Do they slide up and down OK, does the quarter glass seal and is it easy to open and shut?

Examine the paintwork for evidence of shoddy preparation, over-spray on poorly masked rubbers or hardware and poor colour matches between panels.


  Underbody Check

If you find evidence of major panel repairs, you should check the chassis of the vehicle for alignment. Check the distance between the back and front wheels on each side and the distance between front wheels and the front door pillar on each side. If the measurements are not the same, the body has been put out of square or the front chassis has been bent and you would be well advise to not buy the unit.


  Checking for Rust
Even if the vehicle that you are examining has never been in an accident and it is mechanically reliable, you should check for the presence of rust in the body shell and structural frames. The presence of bad rust will cause a car to fail a roadworthy, but even minor rust can be a problem because eventually it will spread and lead to costly repairs.
Areas to check include the door shells, especially the lower frames, the sills, both outer and inner, the floor of the vehicle, the bottoms of the front and rear guards and the panel under the front bumper bar. Rust in these areas usually does not affect the safety aspect of the vehicle, but as most of these panels are painted and seen, repairs are costly.

Rust to the structural sections of a vehicle is more serious and should be treated as grounds for not buying the vehicle. For some models replacement sections are available, but generally structural rust is a big problem. Be especially careful of rust in the front subframes and radiator support panel, the area where the rear springs are mounted and the roof turret.


  Interior Trim Check
The condition of the interior of the vehicle usually reflects fairly accurately the amount of hard work that the vehicle has done and the way it has been treated. It is a good indication that the rest of the vehicle has been looked after and well maintained.
Look out for badly worn or smelly carpets, they may mean the windscreen or the door rubbers leak in the rain. Rear window leaks usually appear as water in the boot.
The condition of all the door and boot rubbers, especially the belt weather-strips, should be checked, as replacements are expensive and old seals let wind, dust and rain in.

Check the condition of the seat springs where the driver sits. These are the ones that get the most use and wear and if they offer uneven or little support, it indicates that the whole vehicle has had a hard life.


  The Road Test
If the vehicle that you are examining passes all the previous tests, then you are ready for a test drive.
Select a route where there is little traffic, but with variety of road conditions, including a steep hill and rough and corrugated sections. Preferably, drive the vehicle a further distance than just around the block.
Begin by driving a kilometre or so just to get the feel of the vehicle. You should feel comfortable in the vehicle, you should have good visibility from the driver’s seat and you should be confident with the vehicle’s performance even after only one kilometre.
Check the brakes. They should not cause the vehicle to pull to one side, or lock up any wheels.
Check the transmission. Make sure the synchromesh works when changing down through the gears. Give the vehicle a burst of power, then slacken off. It should not jump out of gear.
For an automatic, manually select all the gears to make sure that they all select and try the kickdown by accelerating or overtaking rapidly.

Take the vehicle through its paces, note any dropping off in performance when going up steep hill and check the ride and handling characteristics when on poor as well as good roads.


  If cash is out of the question, financing a loan can be a minefield to the uninitiated, especially when the sales person starts talking about various options and barerting about terms. More detailed information can be found at


How To Go About Selling a Vehicle

Selling a vehicle privately can be time consuming and frustrating, BUT it is financially more rewarding. It can be frustrating if the sale falls through and you have to advertise again. You have to be careful to get paid in full before handing the vehicle over, this includes, if the purchaser is paying by cheque, to get that payment cleared. Be aware that a bank cheque is not a guarantee of receiving your money! Also, never let the vehicle be test driven without you or someone that you trust (not the buyer) in the vehicle. Should you inappropriately let a person test drive it unaccompanied, AND THEY DO NOT RETURN, the offence may not be considered by the police as theft as you have given someone permission to drive your vehicle. Just how far and for how long is debatable (a fine costly point).

Selling to a registered dealer, either outright or as a trade-in for another vehicle, offers advantages over selling privately as well. Firstly, it is more convenient. The dealer will handle all the paper work, and will pay you on the spot. Secondly, there are no upfront costs such as advertising. Thirdly, you can sell the vehicle to a dealer without the hassle of a roadworthy certificate.

The problem with selling to a dealer is you will never get TOP dollar for your vehicle. You will do better by using it as a trade-in, especially if you are upgrading to a more expensive unit, but as a general rule, you never do as well as you could selling privately. If you are trading-in, be aware that there is a figure inbuilt into the price of your future purchase by the dealer to write back their actual floor cost. Sometimes it is better financially, to sell your vehicle privately - to get more money!

This enables you to approach a dealer with more deposit money, so as you can purchase your new vehicle as what they call a "Cleanskin"; that is less trouble and a neater deal. It is a better deal for you, as it means less out of your pocket!

Vehicles with more than 9 months registration on them sell a lot better than ones with only 3 months of registration left (you can get 6 months rego). It is advisable therefore, to sell your vehicle just after registration has been paid. These days, a vehicle must have a safety certificate (blue notice) displayed on it before you offer it for sale. If you try to dispose of it without one and it is picked up you are leaving yourself open to be fined by the Transport department.

So it is a good idea to get the vehicle checked out, firstly to ascertain how much you may or may not have to spend on it to have it in a roadworthy condition before you attempt to sell it, and after you evaluate the situation, what price that you consider to be reasonable to sell it for.

Whether the rust is bad enough to fail an inspection and whether new tyres are needed, it’s no good thinking that you will sell the vehicle for a certain price, only to discover you have to spend hundreds of dollars before it will pass roadworthy. Once you know how much it will cost you to get the vehicle up to scratch, for you to sell it you can decide to do the repairs by upping the price or dispose of it to a dealer.

Any other mechanical faults you’ve been putting up with, but are not needed to pass a roadworthy, should be taken into consideration when establishing your selling price, but you should consider whether it is appropriate for you to have them fixed. We’re not suggesting you should hide any faults from potential buyers, instead you should be honest with them, explain what is needed to be done and let them know that your selling price has been lowered to allow them to do the work, if they want to.

There’s a good reason for doing this. What at first seems like a relatively small and cheap repair may, as the work progresses, involve any number of additional expenses. And it’s certain the money you pay to have these extra repairs done will not be recoverable by putting up the price of your vehicle. So you will try to cut corners, the job will not be done properly and the new owner will become frustrated when the work that you said was done needs doing again.

Presenting the Vehicle in the Best Light

It goes without saying, to get the best price for your vehicle you must present it in it’s best light. It is therefore wise to restrict your spending to work that will enhance the appearance of your vehicle and dramatically improve your chances. Keeping in mind that, for many potential buyers, first appearance sells rather than performance.

The one thing that you can do to your vehicle to improve the chances of selling it quickly for a good price and that’s to have professionally presented (detailed) thoroughly. A proper job could add as much as 25% to the selling price! or put it another way, a dirty vehicle will sell for about 20% less than a clean one in the same mechanical conditions. Car yards know this rule only too well, that’s why they spend the first few hours each and every day cleaning to present their fleet of vehicles to the danger of being "SOLD" for the maximum price.

A full professional presentation should cost you about $265.00 to $395.00 and be money well spent. For that money they should clean and polish the interior, clean the engine and bay, vacuum the boot area, wash the exterior, cut , buff and polish the paint (if performed correctly will remove the "minor" scratches that are not through the paint, bright polish the trim work(mirror, chrome),clean glass inside and outside. Of course you can always do it yourself, but without the specialised equipment used by the experts, it will take you a full day or even two days of your valuable time and the finished job will not be as Impressive.

One last thing you can do to improve the value of your vehicle is to repair any minor damage to interior trim or minor bodywork dents and deep scratches through the paintwork--you just want to take the buyers eyes away from them.
Once your vehicle has been properly presented for sale, you should advertise it in the appropriate places, obtain copies of transfer papers so you can complete a sale efficiently.

The best place to advertise will depend on where you live and if you don’t know where people advertise their vehicles in your area, ask some of your local car yards. It’s a good idea to check out your local yards anyway because you’ll soon get an idea of what price your vehicle will fetch by looking at the prices of similar vehicles in the yards and by examining the local print ads as well.

A Few Tips to Help You After the Sale is Made

Firstly, obtain a substantial holding deposit, at least $250.00 to $500.00 - this means that if the sale falls through no fault of yours - you are not obliged to give a refund as you have been holding the sale of your vehicle for that potential buye, and may have missed out on selling it to a more genuine buyer. If the event that this may occur, it is a good idea to record the contact numbers of the other interested parties, for you to then go back in an effort to retrieve a sale! Any smaller amount can mean the prospective buyer may pull out of the deal, leaving you waiting and you may have turned a genuine buyer away.
Secondly, write a receipt for the deposit as a holding deposit and state the final balance payment date clearly.
Thirdly, on no account accept personal cheques for either deposit or balance payment. Ask for cash or bank cheque upon satisfactory payment being cleared.
Fourthly, complete the transfer of registration details but do not hand the forms to the new owner. Mail it to the department yourself.
Handing a signed transfer document to the new owner is dangerous because he may not complete the transfer and you will still be the legal owner of the car and be held liable in the case of an accident or traffic infringement.
Finally, provide the new owner with a receipt listing the make, model, registration number and engine number of the vehicle.

Additional Considerations

1. Never look at a car in the rain as it looks great/shinny and camouflages scratches, scuffs marks etc
2. Sometimes it is better to stay with the devil that you know rather than someone else’s problems.
3. Consider having your current vehicle "detailed" and/or having a range of "accessories" added to enhance your vehicle.

Make Your Vehicle Different from the Rest

If you have a common car and you are selling it in the newspaper in a competitive environment, make your advertisement a little different to try a get the calls. For example 400 litres of free petrol, sounds very appealing and you usually incorporate it into the initial sale price of the car. The Trading Post is a popular place to try, but it has to be ready for Thursday's release .

1. You have to get them to respond to your ad to come and have a look at it.

2. It has to gleam when potential buyers turn up at your residence, as the "GLOW" of it has to gain their initial attention, inviting them to consider getting out of their car to come over and look at yours - this is an important point, if it is not appealing they may rethink and drive off to look at another without giving yours the consideration it deserves.

3. Remember you ONLY need one buyer to buy your car, a well presented car sells quickly and at maximum dollars they have too get excited -- fall in love with it and hopefully not find flaws with it to try and get you to renegotiate your required price.

What is my Vehicle Worth?

There are several ways for you to find out what it is worth. Check the newspapers particularly the larger ones with a large classified motoring section, and compare ads for the same or similar vehicle to your own. One of the better ways to get a price is to call a motoring association (say the RACQ), this way you get the price that people actually pay and not what people are asking for. Of course things like paint work condition, accessories, kms and so on need to be considered when setting a price - always leave room to negotiaen when selling the vehicle. You can always go down but never up! Set a realistic price as too cheap may lay suspicion - too high may put off a potential buyer.

Used Car Outlets, Fairs & Swap Meets

If you are short on time and don’t wish to wait around all week-end waiting for people to hopefully turn up to look at your car you may wish to speed things up by considering some of the motormarts that operate around your city. You simply leave your car there on a Saturday morning and pick it up at the end of the day, or at some fairs you can leave it there overnight. They will take the enquiries on your behalf. There may be a commission involved or you may have to pay a daily or set rate.

The average used car takes anything from one day right up to six weeks too sell. Remember it only takes one buyer to buy your car and attention to detail . Don’t give up if it does not sell on its first outing and always have any information on your car readily available for any potential buyers. Another way to gain the buyers confidence is for you to have a RACQ inspection report already done on the car before it goes to sale, this way you are covering all bets, the buyer will have complete peace of mind, resulting in you securing the deal from the first point of contact.

If we here at TLC Car Care can be of any further assistance, please free to call or contact us we look forward to serving you.

If You Are Involved in an Accident

If you are involved in an accident, it is possible that you might not obtain all the necessary details required at the time. TLC has provided a guide to recording all relevant facts on the spot, whilst your recollections of the events are clear in your mind. You will almost certainly need them for when you fill in an insurance claim form or take other action to recover your repair costs! Print out the attached form and keep it handy, in your glovebox.


© 2003-2004 TLC Car Care. All rights reserved.