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How to buy a used car

If you’re looking for a used car, you may want a few tips. Who knows? You might land your perfect second-hand car quicker than expected. So, without sounding like a used car salesperson ready for the hard sell, here’s what you need to know.

Before you begin your car buying journey

With a bit of planning, like sorting out your finances before the day of purchase, you’ll avoid ending up with buyers regret — or worse, buying a lemon.

Plan ahead

To set the wheels in motion, it’s a good idea to plan your attack. Consider your budget for buying a second-hand car and know what type of car you can afford. This is a great time to think about taking out finance, or to factoring extra costs like insurance, registration and servicing. Decide whether you need a loan, or whether you can dip into your savings account.

Did you know that Suncorp offers a range of personal loans? See whether a Suncorp Personal Loan could be right for you.

Discover Suncorp Personal Loans

Shortlist your selection

If you’re like many people on the hunt for a second-hand car, you’re probably scanning the streets and looking at passing cars to work out what model, type and size of car you want. So now’s the time to also consider the absolute deal breakers. Maybe you’re in the market for an SUV crossover, but want something that’s fuel efficient and not too big. So you’re comparing a range of different vehicles in that size.

Or perhaps you’re after a vehicle that’s done under a certain number of kilometres, or in a particular model year. To help you get started, use our handy Used Car Shortlist Template.

Inspect and test drive the car  

By now you’ve either made it to the dealership, the sale yard or the private seller’s garage. Here’s when you might ask the seller a few questions about the car, like whether it’s had any accidents and why the owner is selling the vehicle.

It’s important to assess its condition – looking for dents and scratches – and open the doors and boot to check for any damage.  

Once you’ve done that, it’s time for a test drive! Listen for troubling noises, such as rattling, clicking or whining. Notice how the brakes feel (grinding or screeching noises can indicate worn brake pads and rotors) and test its turning circle (a 90-degree turn should feel effortless and smooth).

Make sure you bring our Used Car Inspection Checklist to your test drive.

Make the deal 

Deal making isn’t something that comes naturally for everyone. But with a bit of practice anyone can negotiate a fair price. Make sure you have a good idea of the price of your vehicle across both dealership and private sales, before you begin the negotiation.

So, after the test drive (and if you’re satisfied with the car) it’s time for the negotiation. When it comes to negotiating buying a used car, you’ll need to consider if it’s the right price in relation to the car’s worth.

Go through the fine print 

Congratulations! At this point, you’re probably jumping for joy at the prospect of owning a car. But before you pop the champagne, you’ll need to complete all the vehicle transfer paperwork and of course, make the payment.

Also, don’t forget to transfer any e-tags and permits. And remember that you’re not alone. With so many hurdles to navigate, Suncorp has developed an online Used Car Buying Checklist to steer you in the right direction.

Explore Suncorp’s
Used Car Buying Checklist

Find out more

Looking for a loan or car insurance?


Suncorp Bank Secured Car Loan

Stay in control and plan your budget with a fixed interest rate for the life of your loan. 


Suncorp Bank Personal Loan

Help make it possible by choosing either a fixed or variable rate.


Suncorp Car Insurance

Enjoy driving with confidence knowing that your needs are covered. 

Other useful car buying resources

Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

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