Before you buy a car
Work out how much you can afford to spend, and don't forget to include registration, insurance and regular maintenance and running costs. Both for insurance, and if you're going to get a loan, shop around to get the best rate.
It's important to have a thorough look at what's out there before buying a car. To get an idea of a model's current market price, spend some time searching used car ads online one the many car websites or in your local newspaper. Carsguide.com.au also offers a price guide to help you avoid paying too much. Do some homework on car values before you go shopping and later on you'll be in a better position to negotiate.
Be wary if you find a used car where the price is much lower than the market suggests it should be. If you're determined to take it further, have the car checked thoroughly. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Find the right car
Browse car websites by body type, make or price to find out which make and model might suit you. Go window shopping by make and model, age, location and all kinds of other helpful details. Read online reviews of the car you're looking for. Check the latest car news to see if a new model is coming -- which can reduce the price of previous models when it arrives. Don't buy the first car you see - shop around and compare deals before you hand over any money. It's worth getting an estimate on car insurance before buying to make sure it's not too expensive. A different car might cost less to insure. Also think about the petrol usage and if you can afford to drive a big car. Maybe a car that's just a bit smaller actually drives a lot cheaper. Don't forget additional costs such as stamp duty.
Talk to people who own the vehicle you are interested in - and your local mechanic. Friends and family are likely to be honest with you about what the car's like and, if you're lucky, can let you have a drive to see how it handles. If you don't know anyone who owns what you're interested in, then you can try talking to a stranger who does own one if you meet them in a car park - most people are happy to talk about their cars and take your interest as a complement. You will, however, only get a quick "review" this way.
No, find three right cars
Even better than finding the right car is finding three cars you would like to drive in. Broaden your options will eventually save you money because there's always an alternative. It gives you a better position when negotiating when there's another option just around the corner.
Car dealer or private?
Buying private might save you money at the sale, but cost you after. Keep in mind, when buying a car privately, that you're not entitled to a refund if you change your mind and you won't receive a warranty. You should know what you're doing and get the car checked thoroughly if you're buying from a private seller.
Licensed dealers are obliged to guarantee that no money is owing on the car, it has not been de-registered due to parking fines or previously declared a wreck. If a car turns out to be stolen, the purchase price must be refunded by the dealer or, if no longer trading, the Motor Dealer Compensation Fund.