Smart car buyers guide



In most cases when buying a second hand vehicle from a licensed motor dealer you are entitled to a “Mandatory Statutory Warranty”.

This protects you from financial loss if the vehicle is faulty.

There are two types of statutory warranty, Class A and Class B.

CLASS A – Valid for 3 months or 5000 km, whichever happens first.

  • When the odometer reading is less than 160 000 km
  • The car was manufactured less than 10 years before the sale date.

CLASS B – Valid for 1 month or 1000 km, whichever happens first.

  • The odometer reading is 160 000 km or more,
  • Or the car was manufactured 10 years or more before the sale date


You are also protected by ‘consumer guarantees’. Visit to find out more.


Warranty Exclusions

Statutory warranties do not cover any defect the following:

  • tyres or tyre tubes, 

  • batteries,

  • fitted airbags

  • lights other than a warning light or turn indicator light used as a hazard light

  • radiator hoses

  • installed radio, tape recorder or CD player

  • air-conditioning system (for a Class B warranted vehicle)

  • aerial,

  • service items such as spark plugs, wiper rubber, distributor point, oil or oil filter, heater hose, fuel or air filter

  • paintwork or upholstery that should have been apparent before the buyer took delivery of the vehicle

  • accessories not fitted to the vehicle when it was sold.

  • Statutory warranty also does not cover any defect from accidental damage due to your misuse or negligence.
Pushing car

Vehicles offered without statutory warranty

The following vehicles do not have a statutory warranty:

  • motorcycles

  • caravans

  • commercial vehicles

  • written-off vehicles

  • vehicles being sold on consignment for a private seller

  • vehicles sold for restoration

  • an unregistered vehicle that can not be registered in Queensland because of its design.

    Vehicles with no statutory warranty must be clearly identified and advertised. Auctioneers and motor dealers must place notices on the windshield or price tag, place signs at the main entrance to the premises or give them to you.


Cooling-off period

Cooling off periods are valid for one business day when purchasing from a motor dealer. The motor dealer cannot refuse to grant you a cooling off period.

Top 3 things to remember

  1. If you take possession of the vehicle during the cooling-off period, you lose your right to have a cooling-off period
  2. You are allowed to take the vehicle for an independent mechanical inspection and test drive the vehicle
  3. The sales contract is binding for the dealer as soon as both parties sign the contract. As the buyer, you are bound by the contract only after the cooling-off period, unless you take possession of the vehicle during that time.

    Terminating a contract during the cooling-off period

    If you wish to terminate a contract during the cooling-off period, give the dealer written notice before the period ends. You can email, fax or deliver the notice personally.

    The dealer can keep up to $100 of your deposit. They must return the rest of the money you paid and your trade-in vehicle.

Clear title

Buying a vehicle that is free and clear of any debt is known as clear title.

A Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) certificate gives you information about any outstanding debts attached to a vehicle.

For example: if a bank has given a loan to the previous owner of the vehicle, who has not yet fully repaid, the bank has a financial interest in the vehicle. The bank is legally able to repossess the vehicle if the loan defaults.

If the PPSR certificate shows any outstanding debts, make sure the previous owner clears them before you pay for the vehicle.

If the used vehicle is being sold by a licensed motor dealer or licensed auctioneer, they must guarantee clear title.

Even though they are not required to give you a PPSR certificate, you are guaranteed clear title regardless of whether you are given a certificate or not.

If you buy from a private person, it is your responsibility to get a PPSR certificate.

To obtain information on how to get a PPSR certificate, visit or call 1300 007 777.

Mobile roadworthy certificates

Conducting vehicle checks

Vehicle plate checks

Check the build plate to see the construction date of the car. Make sure the advertised year of the car is the same as its true age.

The compliance plate indicates the date the car met certain Australian safety standards, making it legal to drive. This date is not necessarily the same as the manufacture date of the car and it does not indicate the year model.

Mechanical inspection

Pre-Purchase Inspections can pay for themselves several times over. Having a qualified mechanic complete a Pre-Purchase Inspection can save you money in the long run in unknown repairs. A Queensland Safety Certificate does not mean that the vehicle is mechanically sound. It is always recommended to have a Pre-Purchase Inspection carried out. 

Buying privately

If you are not buying from a licensed dealer, take extra precautions.

Top 3 differences between buying privately versus buying from a licensed dealer.

  1. you do not have a statutory warranty

  2. you are not entitled to a cooling-off period

  3. the seller is not bound by the same laws as licensed dealers 

IMPORTANT: You cannot access the Claim Fund if anything goes wrong (i.e. you won’t be able to make a claim for compensation of any financial loss).

Visit to find out more about the Claim Fund.

Buying a new car

Contracts for purchasing a vehicle may include some of all of the following:
  • Total Cost 
  • Warranty conditions
  • Trade in amount (If applicable)
  • Delivery Date
  • Buyer’s Full Name and Address
  • Sellers Full Name and Address
  • Photocopy of both parties drivers licenses
  • Financial Institution if financed 


The contract of sale for the purchase of a motor vehicle
is a legally binding document.

DO NOT SIGN until you are absolutely sure you want to buy the car.

Make sure there are no unfavourable clauses in the contract. Seek Legal advice if unsure

Buying a Brand New Car from a Dealership

When you buy a new car from a dealership, there is no cooling-off period.

Make sure you are completely happy with the car and the contract before signing anything.

A vehicle is classified as a new car if it has never been licensed or registered. A demonstration car is not considered a new car.

Vehicle plate checks

Check the build plate to see the construction date of the car. The compliance plate details the date the car met certain Australian safety standards, making it legal to drive. The compliance date will not necessarily be the same as the build date, especially on imported vehicles. Make sure the advertised year model of the car matches its true age.

The build plate date is commonly used to value a car when you re-sell it. If you have bought a car based on its compliance date, rather than build date, its resale value could be significantly less than expected.

Negotiate the deal

As you visit each dealer, ask them to give you a firm price in writing for the model you want. Get prices from as many dealers as possible.

Pay a deposit

Dealers often ask for a deposit to prove you intend to buy the car. Only pay the minimum deposit the dealer will accept to reserve the car.

Before you hand over your cash, check if your deposit is refundable, and if so, under what circumstances.

Make sure you get a receipt for every payment you make.

Do your own pre-delivery check on the vehicle. Check to see that:

  • there are no dents or chips in the paintwork

  • there are no cuts or scratches on the interior

  • any accessories or extras you have ordered have been included

  • the advertised year model matches the build plate.


Resolving disputes

Try to resolve any disputes directly with the dealer.

Ask for all commitments of resolutions/repairs to be in writing.

If you are not happy with the dealer’s response to your concerns, visit explore your options.


At an auction, you must be told if the vehicle:
  • Does not carry a statutory warranty

  • Has sustained water damage

  • Is a repairable write-off (i.e. it must pass a written-off vehicle inspection before it can be registered)

  • Is a statutory write-off (i.e. it cannot be registered).

    Usually you are not allowed to test drive a vehicle before bidding on it at auction, but you should be able to inspect it.

    The seller must guarantee clear title to the buyer. This ensures there is no money owed on the vehicle and no other party can claim a financial interest in it.

Unless the car has been identified as an unregistered vehicle, you must also be given a safety certificate (previously known as a roadworthy certificate). Visit to find out more about safety certificates.

When you buy a vehicle, the auction house must give you a receipt and completed transfer of registration form. Transfer of registration forms are available at

Remember, once the hammer falls you can’t back out of your purchase. Carefully study the conditions of sale before bidding.

Restorable vehicle

A restorable vehicle is:

  • 20 or more years old

  • for sale for restoration.

    To bid on a restorable vehicle at an auction you must register yourself with the auctioneer before the auction begins. The vehicle’s statutory warranty is waived as a condition of the sale.

    Resolving disputes

    First try to resolve any problems you have directly
    with the auction house. All auction houses must have complaint handling procedures. Then if you are not happy with the auction house’s response to your concerns, to explore your options.


Find a reputable repairer

Make sure the repairer you choose is reputable, qualified to do the job and has access to the necessary equipment. Going to the same reliable repairer each time will build up a service history for your car. It will also allow the repairer to better advise you of upcoming repairs.

Get quotes

Get at least two written quotes for any repairs or services. Estimates are often verbal and approximate, while quotes are more specific and itemise the work to be done. The quote should outline the repairs and the costs, including parts, labour and any agreements or promises given. Preparing a written quote may involve the repairer having to diagnose the fault. Check before leaving your car whether you will be charged for this.

Don’t be pressured into having a repair carried out. Ask the repairer to explain the fault clearly without using technical jargon. If you are unsure about the repairs or they sound expensive, shop around for other quotes and advice.

Explain the problems clearly

Be clear and specific when describing the problems with your vehicle to a repairer. The more the repairer knows about the problem, the more likely they will be able to find the cause and fix the problem the first time.

It’s best not to ask for specific repairs or diagnose the problem yourself. If you do ask for a specific repair and it doesn’t fix the fault, you cannot hold the repairer liable.

Don't get caught with an unwanted repair bill.

TOP 9 Tips to avoid unwanted repair bills

  1. All repairs for your vehicle should be quoted and agreed upon BEFORE any work is carried out.
  2. Ensure the repairer clearly understands that they can only do repairs that you have authorised.
  3. Any extra work should only be completed if, and when, you give the repairer permission to do so.
  4. Let the repairer know before they commence work if you want any old parts returned after the car is repaired. They should be able to show you why parts were replaced.
  5. Avoid using phrases such as “Do whatever needs to be done” as this can lead to costly repairs you are not prepared to pay for.
  6. If you are unable to pay and haven’t come to any financial arrangement, the repairer is allowed to keep your car until you do pay.
  7. Get an itemised invoice that breaks down the costs of products and labour for instance.
  8. Get a receipt and keep it with your car records.
  9. Keep a record of repairs and services carried out on your car. These will help you with any warranty or repair disputes. If you want to sell the car, these records will show the car has been well maintained.

Steps to take to resolving a warranty dispute

  1. You must take your vehicle back to the dealer and give written notice of the defect to the warrantor.
  2. Try to resolve any disputes directly with the repairer first. Clearly discuss why you are dissatisfied with the repairs or service. If you are not happy with the response, write to the manager.
  3. The warrantor must respond within five days with instructions for getting your vehicle repairs done.
  4. Once the warrantor accepts that the defects are covered by statutory warranty, they have 14 days to complete the repairs and return your vehicle.

If you still are not satisfied with the response, visit to explore your options.

Alternatively you can contact the Motor Trades Association of Queensland for advice if your repairer is a member.


  • If you feel you are entitled to repairs under your statutory warranty, you cannot simply have your vehicle repaired and send the bill to the warrantor.   
  • If your vehicle is more than 200 km from the warrantor when you give notice, you can take it to the nearest qualified repairer. The warrantor may decide to use another repairer, but they will have to pay for any delivery costs.
  • If the car dealership you bought from has been sold, the warranty on your vehicle continues to remain the responsibility of the original licensee. If the dealership ownership changes hands then the new owner of the dealership is not responsible for instance.
  • For every day your car is undergoing a statutory warranty repair, another day is added to your warranty period.

Vehicle Maintenance & Servicing

Regular services will help keep long-term repair costs down. They can also identify minor problems that can be repaired before they become more costly major problems. Correctly maintain your vehicle by following the manufacturer’s service schedule. A well looked after vehicle will most likely have a higher resale or trade-in value if you choose to sell.


If you buy a new car, check that:

  •   All exterior lights are working

  •   All glass surfaces are clean and free from chips, cracks and scratches

  •   The windscreen wipers and washers work properly

  •   The horn works

  •   The handbrake holds the car still on steep hills

  •   The seat belts are in good condition

  •   The tyres are in good condition and at the right pressure

  •   All gauges and warning lights are working when you start the car

  •   All fluid and oil levels are topped up when needed.

Roadworthy inspection
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