Used Car Buying Guide

How To Buy A Used Car In Brisbane – Our Step By Step Guide


On completion of our step by step guide you will not only have the tools and knowledge but also the confidence in knowing you are buying the right used car.  You may ask why we want you to know this.  Well the truth is we are a Brisbane car dealership located in Woodridge that prides itself on great service, selling only quality vehicles in a polite and friendly manner. All too often we hear stories directly from our customers about their prior experiences.


Part 1 –  How to compare used cars accurately


We are going to begin our step by step guide explaining how to compare used cars accurately by using the year they were made, the make (brand), the model and the series.


Most car buyers understand there are different brands & models but they don’t always understand the importance of the series.  The series plays such a big part in what the vehicle is worth.

Here we are going to compare a 2004 Mazda 3 Neo Hatchback with Mazda 3 SP23 Hatchback.
















Above pictures: 2004 Mazda 3 SP23



Although both the Mazda 3 Neo and the Mazda 3 SP23 may look similar there are many differences. With these vehicles you’ll notice that the Brand and the Model are the same but the series is different.  This is where you need to compare and take into consideration the extras the SP23 has. (As shown below)

The SP23 is known as one of Mazda’s luxury sports models.


Year: 2004

Make: Mazda


Series: Neo or SP23

Body: Hatchback



Standard features found on both the 2004 Mazda 3 Neo and SP23.


Dual Airbag Package, Air Conditioning, Central Locking Remote Control, Cloth Trim, Engine Immobiliser, Power Steering, Radio CD with 4 Speakers, Seat Belt Pre-tensioner.


Extra features – 2004 Mazda 3 SP23


Anti-lock braking, Automatic Air Con/Climate Control, 17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Brake Assist, Body Kit Sports, CD with 6 CD Stacker, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Fog Lights, Head Airbags, Leather Steering Wheel, Power Windows, Rear Spoiler, Side Front Airbags.




Part 2 – Where to begin your search for a used car in Brisbane


Basically you have two choices when buying a used car. You can either choose to purchase your car from a private seller or a car dealer.  Either way there are checks you are going to need to do in order to know you are buying a good quality used vehicle at the best price.


We suggest beginning your search on the internet.  There are numerous car websites that have cars listed for sale from private sellers and car dealers.  If you live in Brisbane the main sites for you to use are Carsales, Drive, Trading Post  and Carsguide.  This type of research will give you a very good indication of the current market value of the used car you are interested in.


If you haven’t decided on one or a couple of types of used cars we suggest going to a car yard and just simply have a look around. Try to get a feel for what you like and what you need. Also take into consideration your budget.  Do not buy anything at this stage. Buying a used car is not a decision to be made quickly especially if you haven’t completed your research first.


Part 3 -Using the internet to find the market value


Most used car websites have similar ways of searching vehicles. The first thing you’ll notice is a big search box. We’ll use the search box from Drive as we’ve shown below in diagram 1.  Throughout our guide we will continue to show examples and screenshots for our search on a 2004 Mazda 3 SP23 Automatic.


Step 1:  Complete your details by selecting Dealer /Private or both, used, make, model and location. Click the orange button – Search for cars.


Don’t forget to select the location as Brisbane as you are only interested in vehicles that are local to you.  Leave the minimum and maximum price blank at this stage.


Diagram 1


















The next page will then take you to a list of vehicles Drive has selected from the details you’ve just entered. This page also gives you an option to refine your search by using the left menu to enter any further details.


You will need to complete more information here such as the year of the vehicle & the model series.  This is where it can get a little tricky. The details you enter here need to be correct to enable you to compare exactly the same used car models.  This is very important.


Step 2: First click on the blue box to the right of the Year with a + this will then drop down allowing you to enter the year.  Enter the year of your vehicle and click update. Example: 2004 to 2004 update.

Once the year has been selected your page will update with the new information.


Take a look at the vehicles showing in diagram 2 for our Mazda.  They are all 2004 Mazda’s however the series is different.  The models range from a base model Neo to an SP23.  A Mazda 3 SP23 has so many more features as we discussed earlier. You cannot compare these vehicles fairly.


Step 3:  Our model/series is a SP23.  Choose your model.


The numbers in brackets are the number of used cars available for sale in Brisbane for that series.



Diagram 2:

Diagram 2





Step 4:  Further refine your search by choosing body type and transmission.  Some body types are more expensive, for example a wagon will cost you more than a sedan and an automatic will cost you more than a manual.


The page will now be updated with all 2004 Mazda 3, SP23’s that are automatic and for sale in Brisbane.




Diagram 3:






































Step 5:  The next step is to select the “sort by” which is found on the top right.  Here you might want to sort by lowest price. This will then give you the used cars for sale in Brisbane of the makes, models and series you originally selected, ranging from the cheapest through to the most expensive.  Now this is a good place to start comparing price and kilometers.


See diagram 3.  This diagram also shows the categories you selected along the top.  For our example it lists – 3 vehicles found for:  Qld, Brisbane, Mazda, 3, Sp23, Automatic only, Hatch, 2004yr. This is such a great way to confirm your vehicle search is correct.


If you haven’t already done so, now would be a good time to complete a couple of searches on the used cars you’ve chosen using the different series models. This way you’ll start to get familiar with the program and how it works.


After researching your vehicles different series types you will need to decide if you want or need those extras. Consider the price difference for a base model compared to a top of the range, luxury model.


Part 4 – Why the cheapest used car isn’t always the best


Now that we’ve shown you how to compare the vehicles with the same year, make, model and series we will now explain how to compare the used cars you’ve chosen fairly.


Comparisons we’ll be making:

  1. The kilometers a vehicle has travelled
  2. Service history
  3. Does the vehicle have any extra features

Comparing kilometers travelled


The average kilometers a used car travels in one year is 22,000.  So if you’re looking at vehicles that are approximately 8 years old then you times the year (8years X 22,000 average yearly klms = 176,000 average klm )  This figure is then the average kilometers a vehicle of that age could be expected to have travelled.


Therefore if you find a vehicle that has travelled under the average kilometers for its age then this automatically adds extra value to that vehicle. For example: If you were to find a 2004 vehicle that had travelled only 105,000 then it should be a vehicle that is high on your list to inspect.


Step 6: Take a look at the kilometers each of your selected used cars have travelled.  Do the sums here on your vehicles and work out if they have travelled more than the average or less than average for their year. Often the cheapest used car will have travelled the most kilometers.  A vehicle like this could possibly cost you more in the long run to maintain.


Car Buying Tip:


A used car that has travelled many kilometers over the average should be offered for sale at a reduced or lower price. A vehicle with high kilometers often won’t drive as well nor will it have as great a resale value.  Save yourself from extra expense by buying a vehicle with lower kilometers.


Comparing service history


Does the seller mention anything about the service history? The service history is usually recorded in the vehicles log book.  This is a book that is completed by the owners mechanic and gives information on the maintenance carried out on the vehicle. This is a good indication as to whether the vehicle has been properly maintained. Often you’ll read ‘good service history’ or similar. This will need to be checked on all vehicles you personally inspect.


Comparing Extra Features


Does the vehicle have any extras such as alloy wheels or a spoiler? These extras do add a little more value to the car. Especially if these extras are specifically what you’re looking for or intend adding to your vehicle at a later stage.


If you selected vehicles in the beginning with high kilometers you might like to take some time out here to repeat the process.  The idea here is to find vehicles, with low or average kilometers, with a good service history.  These vehicles should be the ones you personally go and inspect. So again make sure they are vehicles located in Brisbane.


Part 5:  What to look for when buying a used car – 10 point checklist


Inspecting the vehicles


Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to look for when buying a used car, here we will give you the tips and advice you need to carry out your inspections, even if you have little or no experience.



  1. Check the odometer reading.  Has the vehicle travelled the kilometers it was advertised for?
  2. Ask to see the log books.  Has the vehicle been serviced regularly and the book completed and stamped accordingly?  When was the last service?
  3. What is the overall condition of the used car?  Taking into consideration the paint work, any dents or scratches.
  4. Walk around the vehicle.  Are there any panels that don’t match up evenly?  Get down low and look along the side panels.
  5. What condition are the tyres in? Here you will need to check the inside edge as well as the tyres may have worn unevenly if the wheels weren’t aligned properly.  The tyres could appear good on the outer edge but be totally worn on the inside. Also check the spare tyre.
  6. Is everything in working order.  Check that the electric windows are all working as they can be expensive to fix.
  7. Is the vehicle registered?  When is the registration due?
  8. Ask the owner or the car dealership if the vehicle is insured for test drives?
  9. Always take the vehicle for a test drive. Drive on all road surfaces.  If you can, take the vehicle out on the highway and feel how it handles. Turn the radio off and listen for any noises that the vehicle may make.
  10. Never inspect a used car at night or in rainy weather.  Always arrange your inspections in daylight hours.  This will enable you to take a better look at the overall condition of the vehicle.


Car Buying Tips:


  1. Never be in a hurry when looking to buy a used car.  Always allow plenty of time to complete your checks properly.
  2. If time is what you need to make you final decision, then take it.  Don’t be pressured into buying a vehicle when you’re not completely ready.  You need to complete all the steps we have advised to give you peace of mind that you’re buying the right used vehicle.
  3. If you are still uncertain have a trusted mechanic look over the vehicle you’re interested in.  A reputable car dealership will have no problem with you doing this.

Part 6 – Advantages of buying a used car from a Brisbane Car Dealership


  1. Safety Certificate which guarantees the vehicle is free of defects and is in a safe and roadworthy condition.
  2. Guarantee of clear title.  This is a history check on the car to ensure that there is no money owing from previous owners and to ensure the vehicle hasn’t been stolen.
  3. 24 hours or one business day cooling off period prior to taking delivery of your used car.
  4. Statutory Warranty.
  5. Drive away prices.  If you choose to buy your used car from a Brisbane car dealership then the price advertised should be drive away.  That means there should be no extra on road costs.  The only extras you will be required to pay for is if you choose to purchase an extended mechanical warranty.  This is a warranty that covers you beyond the statutory warranty the dealer is required by law to give you. GST, Stamp duty and government charges should all be included.



















Part 7 – Buying a used car from a private seller


As mentioned earlier, motor dealers in Qld are required to advertise drive away prices, however this does not apply to private sellers.  You will need to consider the extra costs such as stamp duty and registration transfers. (ie. A 4 cylinder vehicle will incur a cost of 3% of the purchase price. 6 cylinder 4% and V8 4.5%)


Private sellers are not governed and you will not receive any warranty with your purchase.


Be sure you are buying the used car from the registered owner/s and that they provide a current safety inspection certificate.  Ask to see their driver’s license.  You will also need to do your own title / history check which can be done by visiting PPSR -Personal Property Securities Register.  To complete this check you will need the details of the vehicle such as the Registration number, Engine number, Vin or chassis number. Most of these numbers can be found on the compliance plate of the vehicle. Generally on older vehicles the compliance plate will be found under the bonnet on the firewall. However later model vehicles you may have to consult the owner’s manual to see where it is located. ie. inside the door, inside the boot. There will be a small charge for this title / history check.


Part 8 – Considering extra costs



So now you should have personally inspected your vehicles.  You may have chosen some used cars to inspect at Brisbane car dealerships and some cars for sale by private sellers. Now you need to consider any extra costs involved in owning the used car you have chosen.


Part 9 – Getting the right paperwork from your motor dealer


  1. Copy of Contract
  2. Cooling Off
  3. Statutory Warranty
  4. Safety Certificate
  5. Clear Title (PPSR Certificate)
  6. Dealer Receipts for deposits or monies paid


What is a Safety Certificate?


A registered vehicle that is offered for sale in Queensland by a dealer or private seller must have a safety certificate.  A safety certificate is an inspection of a vehicle’s roadworthiness including tyres, suspension, steering, body rust or damage, windscreen, brakes and lights.


  1. It is always the seller’s responsibility to provide a safety certificate.  Never agree to get your own safety certificate.  If you are unsure whether the vehicle has been checked properly have an independant mechanic look over the vehicle.
  2. Safety certificates were formally known as roadworthy certificates.
  3. Fines up to $550 apply for car dealers and private sellers offering a vehicle for sale without a current safety certificate.
  4. The safety certificate for a car must be displayed either in the window or on the windscreen.
  5. The buyer receives a copy of the current safety certificate when they take delivery of their new vehicle.



Part 10 – Where is the best place to buy a used car in Brisbane?


The best place to buy a used car in Brisbane is one where you’ll get the most value for your money.  As we’ve explained in our guide it may not necessarily be the cheapest used car in Brisbane but it will be one offered for sale within the current market at a fair price, good overall condition, not too many kilometers for its age and one that has a good service history.


If you’re buying from a Brisbane motor dealer it’s a good idea to find out what sort of after sales service they provide.  If something does go wrong with your vehicle during the warranty period you need to know it’s going to be an easy process getting your vehicle repaired.



Part 11– Summary


Follow our guide through the various steps and we are sure it will help you in making the right choice when buying a used car.  Please feel free to contact us at any time with any questions you may have.  As you can see from our customer comments we are always happy to help.










Thank you for taking the time to read our ‘step by step guide’ to buying a used car in Brisbane.

Business Owners

Kerri & Anthony Gerhardt