Buying a used car

Use a licensed motor vehicle trader

Buying from a licensed motor dealer can cost more than a private sale, but it is the safest way to buy a used car.

All motor traders and dealers in Tasmania must have a licence to sell:

  • used cars
  • other used vehicles.

Search Now for a motor vehicle trader licensed to operate in Tasmania.

When you buy a used car from a licensed dealer, there must be a written contract which includes:

  • the motor vehicle traders licence number
  • any special conditions (extras, finance, on-road costs, insurance)
  • total price including any change-over price for trade-ins
  • the terms of any additional warranty, including manufacturer’s warranty
  • a statutory warranty (if eligible)
  • a guarantee of clear title on the car(free of any unpaid debts)
  • a copy of the Pre-sale Disclosure Statement.

If a motor dealer sells a vehicle privately, they must tell you they are a licensed dealer.

Private seller

Consumers should take extra care if deciding not to buy a car from a licensed motor dealer.

If consumers buy privately:

  • there is no legal requirement for a written contract
  • there is no statutory warranty protection
  • the seller is not required to:
    • fix anything that goes wrong with the car
    • inform consumers of any faults
    • guarantee clear title on the car (free of any unpaid debts)
  • it is the consumer’s sole responsibility to check that the car:
    • is not stolen
    • has money owing on it
    • is on the written-off vehicles register.

Consumers should check:

  • the details on registration certificate match the:
    • registered owner’s name
    • number plate
    • vehicle identification number (VIN) (or chassis number if the vehicle was made before 1989)
    • engine number
  • if the vehicle is stolen or is a statutory or repairable write-off. Use the free Vehicle Registration Status Enquiry (external link)
  • the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) (external link) to make sure there’s no money owing on it (there a small fee to check vehicles)
  • the car is mechanically sound, by getting an independent inspection from a qualified person.

Avoid buying a stolen vehicle

Be wary if the:

  • seller asks for payment (or a large portion of the payment) in cash
  • seller offers to bring the car to you, or is waiting outside the address they provided and does not go inside
  • asking price is significantly below market value.

Buying a vehicle online

Buying a vehicle online allows consumers to:

  • view many cars before inspecting them
  • conduct research from a variety of websites
  • look at a wide range of cars without feeling pressured to buy
  • view feedback from previous buyers.

Sellers can be either a licensed motor dealer or a private individual.

When buying online, consumers should:

  • be aware that goods bought online from overseas may not be covered by the Australian Consumer Law
  • be wary of buying cars that haven’t been inspected or test driven
  • never pay any money for a vehicle they haven’t seen or cannot confirm actually exists.

Online scams

Fake advertisements are appearing on genuine car sales websites, classifieds and online auction sites. These scams claim to offer used cars for lower than expected prices, but often the cars don’t exist.

Visit Scamwatch (external link) to find out how to notice, avoid and report online scams.

Motor car broker

Motor car brokers find cars for consumers for a fee or commission. This detail should be set out in a contract.

Before signing a contract with a motor car broker you should:

  • ask questions about the contract and the car
  • check the broker holds a motor vehicle trader licence
  • if the broker is acting on behalf of a car seller, check the seller, not the broker, holds a licence.

Buying a car at auction

Buying at an auction is often cheaper than buying privately or from a licensed motor vehicle trader.  But it can carry more risks and is best suited to consumers who know about cars.

At auction consumers should inspect the car as they generally will not allow test drives.  The auction house is responsible for ensuring that there is no money owing on the car.  If buying a car at auction, you should set a limit on how much you would like to spend, and stick to it.

Related information

Updated: 25 Jul 2022

This page has been produced and published by the Consumer Building and Occupational Services Division of the Department of Justice. Although every care has been taken in production, no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy, completeness, or relevance to the user's purpose of the information. Those using it for whatever purpose are advised to verify it with the relevant government department, local government body or other source and to obtain any appropriate professional advice. The Crown, its officers, employees and agents do not accept liability however arising, including liability for negligence, for any loss resulting from the use of or reliance upon the information and/or reliance on its availability at any time.