Where to buy a vehicle
Different laws and rules apply depending on where you buy a vehicle. This page covers some of the places you can buy a vehicle, excluding heavy vehicles.
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Buying from a dealership
Buying a vehicle from a licensed motor vehicle dealership provides many advantages.
Unlike buying privately, the dealer has an obligation to guarantee that there is no money owing on the vehicle.
In certain conditions, the dealer also has to provide a dealer guarantee. The dealer often allows you to trade in your old vehicle.
Unlike buying at auction, you can test drive the vehicle to make sure it has the power and features you want.
Most licensed motor vehicle dealers can also offer you finance or insurance, but you don't have to accept it. Shop around and check out the rates offered by banks, credit unions and finance companies.
A motor dealer must disclose any information that might affect your decision to buy a vehicle or at a certain price. The information must be included in the dealer notice attached to the vehicle for sale, including:
any major modifications
past flood, hail damage or water damage
whether a vehicle has been written-off in the past
You can check a motor vehicle dealer's licence online.
Buying a vehicle privately involves relying on your own judgement and knowledge of vehicles.
Some things to consider when buying privately:
there are no assurances from dealers or protection from consumer watchdog groups
it's your responsibility to check for money owing on the used vehicle using the Personal Property Securities Register (PSSR)
you will have to pay if you want the used vehicle inspected by a licensed mechanic
if you buy a used vehicle and there are issues with it, you may have to consider taking legal action against the seller, this can be a costly and time-consuming process
NSW Fair Trading is unable to assist with resolving issues regarding private sales.
Always ask the seller for and note down:
the current certificate of registration
details of the vehicles service history and a copy of any recent inspection reports
proof that the person selling the vehicle is the owner, for example, a sales receipt or driver’s licence to help identify the seller
the registration number
the engine number
the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or chassis number.
Make sure the information shown in the paperwork matches what is on the actual vehicle.
Buying from a market
Car markets bring buyers and sellers together in the one place. When you buy from a market, you are still buying ‘privately’ and therefore need to rely on your own judgement and knowledge as there are no warranties.
Markets are often temporary situations and have become an outlet for backyard operators to dispose of substandard vehicles or even possibly stolen vehicles.
When buying online you are either buying from a dealer or buying privately, so follow the guidelines that apply to those purchases. Australian Consumer Law guarantees your rights when you buy cars online from a licensed motor dealer.
Australian Consumer Law does not offer any protections for private sales
Make sure you know who you are buying from. When completing a transaction, motor vehicle dealers and anyone acting on behalf of a dealer, must inform you that they are a motor dealer and provide you with the prescribed forms. Failure to disclose this information is an offence under the Motor Dealers and Repairers Act.
When you purchase goods online from overseas or by online auction, NSW consumer protection laws may not apply.
Be wary of online scams. There are some fake advertisements on car sales sites, online classifies or auction sites. These scams are usually cars sold at very low prices. Scamwatch has more detailed information about online shopping scams.
Go to the buying motor vehicles page for more information.
Buying from an auction
Buying a vehicle at an auction could result in you getting a bargain, but there are some important things to keep in mind.
- Vehicles sold at auctions are often sold at prices lower than the market value. This could result in significant savings for buyers.
- Auctions can offer a wide variety of vehicles from different models, years, and types.
It's also important to note that:
- It's often not possible to take the vehicle for a test drive before you buy at auction.
- Inspecting a vehicle before the auction might be difficult due to the limited time.
- There is no dealer guarantee for vehicles sold on behalf of individual owners.
If the vehicle is being sold on behalf of another licensed motor dealer, or is owned by the auctioneer, it is covered by a dealer guarantee.
Auction houses are responsible for making sure that the vehicles they sell have no money owing on them. Most auction houses require a 10% deposit or $500 at the fall of the hammer.
Where motor vehicles are sold with number plates attached to private purchasers, they must have a current eSafety inspection report (pink slip) issued by an Authorised Inspection Station (AIS). The inspection report must:
- not be more than 42 days old
- be attached to the vehicle at the time it is offered or displayed for sale
- be provided to the purchaser at the time of delivery of the vehicle.
A vehicle with number plates can still be sold at an auction without a current inspection report if:
- a Form 11 is displayed for the motor vehicle
- a current inspection report is provided to the buyer within seven days following the sale
- the agreed purchase price of the motor vehicle does not change following the sale
- the buyer does not pay any additional costs to get a valid eSafety inspection report (pink slip) for the vehicle.
The Form 11 must state that the vehicle is not subject to the dealer guarantees under the Motor Dealers and Repairers Act 2013 and displayed either:
- on the vehicle
- adjacent to the auctioneer or
- at each entrance to the auction.
Consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law may continue to apply depending on whether the vehicle sold at auction is owned by the dealer.
Generally, it’s good business practice for the Form 11 to be displayed when a vehicle is offered or displayed for sale at an auction, no matter the circumstances.
There are no safeguards with this type of car sale. There are no guarantees of title and no warranties or guarantees supplied. You could be stuck with a vehicle that has been poorly repaired or even written-off. No matter how good the bargain looks, steer clear.
NSW Fair Trading might be able to help if you cannot settle a serious dispute with a licensed motor dealer. Even when there is no dealer guarantee, the Australian Consumer Law may apply.
Learn about managing disputes with motor dealers at warranty and repair disputes.