So you want that sense of freedom and your first car will give that in spades. But it’s probably going to be the first big purchase of your life, so let’s make sure you’re well-informed so you don’t get burnt!

For many of us, our first car will be secondhand (at best). Which is a good idea, particularly if you’re new to driving, as you might have a few bumps and scrapes as you build up your confidence on the road. But buying a second-hand car can be complicated, and requires you to do some research before committing to buy.

If you’re looking to buy a new car, remember that new cars fall in value very quickly. In fact as soon as you sit in the driver’s seat it will already be decreasing in value.

Don’t be taken in by the cheap monthly repayment figures, as the fine print usually outlines that at the end of the financing period (typically five years) there will be a large payment you need to make. If you keep the car, you may need to seek some expensive refinancing and if you sell it you’ll be responsible for any shortfall.

Which car is the right car?

First, you need to know what kind of car you want. Will you be driving it on unsealed roads? Would you prefer petrol, diesel or a hybrid? Do you need a lot of boot space?

Read some motor publications to help narrow down your selection to a few makes and models that you’d be happy to buy.

Shop around

Then when you’re happy, start shopping around online and see what the market price is for the kind of car you’re after. Assess the age of the car, mileage, when the rego is up for renewal and any repairs that have recently been done or may need doing shortly.

Background check

If you have found one or more cars you’re interested in, you might like to do a background check using the motor registry online services available in your state or territory. In NSW for example, the RTA site will tell you:

  • If the car is currently registered
  • If there are any restrictions on the registration
  • If there are any concessions on the registration that may attract additional transfer costs
  • The Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurer and policy expiry date

For more information on the car, you can pay a fee ($21 in NSW, other states or territories may vary) and get a more comprehensive report that will usually include information on:

  • If, and why, the vehicle was written-off anywhere in Australia from 2004
  • If the vehicle, number plates or engine are stolen
  • The number of owners in your state
  • The vehicle’s past use (for example, as a taxi or hire car)
  • If the vehicle has single/joint registered operators
  • The vehicle’s first registration date in your state/territory

It’s also recommended that you check the Government’s Personal Property Securities Register to ensure that the vehicle is fully owned by the person selling it and that there is no money owing on the car. A basic search costs $4, so it’s probably worth doing.

The finer details

When you go to look at the car in person, check the registration plate matches the ad and then ask to view the other two important numbers: the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and the engine number. The VIN is a 17-digit alpha-numeric code on a metal plate inside the engine bay, and the engine number is physically stamped on the engine. If it’s not there it might be time to walk away!

Call us at (08) 8211 7180 or send us an email at  for an expert advice when buying a car.

Article reproduced from MapMyPlan

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Zac Zacharia (Managing Director) has been assisting clients to create wealth and secure their futures for over 14 years.

He is also an accomplished presenter and educator

Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.