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Guide to Buying a Car in Adelaide

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When you first arrive in Adelaide you are going to be in need of a car, here is a comprehensive guide kindly provided by the Consumer and Business Services of SA.



Buying from a Dealer



Buying from a dealer is usually safer than buying at private sale. If there is a dispute over previous ownership of the vehicle or any finance previously owing, then in most cases, the vehicle dealer, not you, will have to bear any losses.

When you buy from a licensed second-hand vehicle dealer there is an implied condition in the contract that the dealer has the right to sell the vehicle and that there are no encumbrances on the vehicle.



Compare prices, models and engine types. Consider issues like manual or automatic, petrol or diesel. You may decide that an LPG conversion is something that would suit your purposes. These days you may even have the choice of a hybrid vehicle. But be sure to do your research.

Check advertisements for used vehicles carefully as prices for the same year and model of car can vary considerably depending on the car’s condition, the distance it has travelled and what extras have been fitted.

Choose from a licensed second-hand vehicle dealer with a good reputation, because they will usually provide a good follow-up service if problems arise. You can check if the dealer is licensed at Licensing Public Register.

Form 1 notice


Under the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act the selling dealer must display certain information in a notice (Form 1 notice) affixed to a window of the vehicle at all times the vehicle is offered for sale. This information includes:

  • the dealer’s name and business address
  • the address at which any warranty repairs are to be carried out (you may negotiate with the dealer on this point)
  • the name and address of the last previous owner (which, if not written on the form, must be supplied to you if you request it)
  • the total distance the vehicle has travelled (odometer reading) and a statement about the accuracy of the odometer reading, and the warranty conditions that apply (including items that may be excluded from warranty).

Upon purchasing the vehicle you must be provided with an exact copy of the Form 1 notice that was displayed (purchaser’s copy). This notice has a Form 3 notice printed on the back. The Form 3 notice certifies the details you relied upon to purchase the vehicle, and also confirms the selling price and date of sale etc. so that your warranty rights are protected, and confirms you to be the actual purchaser of the vehicle.


Test drive and inspect


A car may appear to have all the features and looks that you are after, but only after a test drive can you be sure that it is the right one. For example, you may find during a test drive that the car is uncomfortable to drive, the ride bumpier than you expected or that gear changes are difficult.

Licensed dealers will usually allow you to test drive the vehicle (or a demo vehicle when purchasing a new car) before you purchase. Some will allow you to test the vehicle overnight or over a weekend, but most will prefer to accompany you on a short drive within the vicinity of the dealership.

Auction houses won’t usually let you drive the vehicle before auction day. However they will usually allow you to inspect the vehicle as much as is possible without driving it, which may include starting the engine. If considering a purchase at auction, it is a good idea to test drive a car of similar make and/or model prior to the auction if possible.

For private sales, test driving the vehicle is completely up to the owner. You will need to negotiate this with them and may need to offer some form of ‘security’ to them (e.g. giving them your driver’s licence or keys to your current vehicle to hold).

Before you take a car out for a test drive make sure you understand your legal liability should you be involved in an accident during the test. If test driving a car through a licensed dealer, they should be able to advise you regarding this.

Take the car for a test drive along a variety of different roads and speed limits. Practise parking the car, and perform a U turn to establish the turning circle of the car.


Vehicle inspections


With a second-hand car it’s a good idea to have the vehicle inspected by a professional before you buy it. The RAA, MTA service centres and qualified independent mechanics all offer this type of service and will provide you with a comprehensive written report on the vehicle.

Always inspect the car to the best of your ability before you arrange the inspection – this will save you the cost of a mechanical report if you decide the car simply isn’t worth it.




With any vehicle purchase, if you have specific requirements, now is the time to set them out in writing. Your requirements could include the obtaining of finance, a mechanical inspection or ensuring you receive certain agreed vehicle specifications such as colour, build date or delivery date for new vehicle purchases.

Such clauses might specify that:

  • The contract is subject to and conditional upon the purchaser obtaining own finance to complete the purchase.
  • Vehicle to be delivered by (insert date) otherwise contract will be cancelled and deposit refunded.
  • The contract is subject to a mechanical inspection to the purchaser’s satisfaction.

When purchasing a second-hand vehicle from a licensed dealer, the contract should include Form 5 particulars (or Form 6 for motorcycles). Form 5 particulars include details such as:

  • a description of the vehicle
  • costs for any additional items (e.g. accessories, registration, stamp duty)
  • payment details (noting any deposit/trade in amounts), and
  • who to contact for repair of defects.

The contract should also include information about your cooling off rights.

The dealer should provide you with an exact copy of the Form 1 (Section 16 Notice) that was displayed on the vehicle, and the Form 3 (Notice to Purchaser). The Form 1 gives a description of the vehicle and its price, the last owner, the dealer and information about duty to repair. The Form 3 confirms you as the actual purchaser of the vehicle and is a certification by the dealer that the information in the Section 16 Notice (Form 1) is correct. (For motorcycles, Form 2 and 4 apply).

Read and make sure you understand the form and check that the sale details and costs are correct before you sign it. Never sign an incomplete contract, and remember to keep a copy of what you sign. If you are unsure about anything in the contract, DON’T SIGN IT.


Cooling off


Recent amendments to the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act include the introduction of a two day cooling off period for the purchase of second-hand vehicles. The two day cooling off period only applies to second-hand vehicles purchased through a second-hand vehicle dealer. There is no cooling off period if you buy at auction or through a private sale.

A dealer may ask that a deposit of up to 10% of the purchase price of the vehicle be paid. Then if you decide to cool off and not go through with the purchase, the dealer is entitled to keep the non-refundable part of your deposit (which is $100 or 2%, whichever is less). The balance must be returned to you by the end of the next business day after the dealer receives your notice to cool off.

If the dealer fails to refund the balance of your deposit in time, they have contravened the Act. In these situations, an expiation fee of $500 or a maximum penalty of $5000 may apply. Please contact Consumer and Business Services on 131 882 for advice if this occurs.




Warranties Dealer’s warranty obligations (under the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act)


Regardless of warranties, consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law require a product to be of acceptable quality through its reasonable life. This length of time can be determined by the court. However, it may be longer than the warranty period, especially in the case of expensive products such as cars.

Warranty on your car will depend on the sale price and other factors. The statutory warranty applies from the date of purchase.

  • Vehicles that cost between $3001 and $6000. They will be covered under warranty for the first 3000km travelled or two months, whichever occurs first.
  • Vehicles that cost over $6000. They will be covered under warranty for the first 5000km travelled or three months, whichever occurs first.

If your car needs repairs carried out under the statutory warranty you must contact the trader before having the repairs done, otherwise your statutory warranty may become void and you will have to bear the costs.

It is the dealer’s duty by law to fix certain defects, free of charge, when the vehicle is under warranty.

The dealer may use suitable second-hand replacement parts, but must carry out repairs to accepted trade and industry standards. If you specifically want new parts fitted, you may have to pay the difference. However, you should not pay if the dealer cannot obtain suitable second-hand parts.

Your warranty is extended by the amount of time the dealer keeps your vehicle for repairs. You may apply to the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs to extend the warranty period in certain cases where you did not have use of the vehicle due to a defect and where the delay in obtaining repairs was not your fault.

In most cases, warranty (as detailed or listed on the Form 1) doesn’t apply to:

  • vehicles that are sold for $3000 or less
  • vehicles that have travelled over 200 000 kilometres before the sale
  • vehicles that were first registered more than 15 years ago
  • a vehicle that you have had in your possession for three months or more before the date of sale (for example, under lease)
  • accessories excluded by the dealer (as listed on the Form 1) defects which result from damage deliberately caused to the vehicle after sale
  • normal vehicle servicing defects arising from misuse or negligence after sale
  • defects apparent in the paintwork or upholstery at the time of sale defects arising from collision, impact or accident after sale
  • defects in the tyres (tyres must be road worthy at time of sale) or battery
  • defects not reported to the dealer within the warranty period
  • contracts when you waive the warranty.

You should provide the dealer an opportunity to undertake warranty work on your car in the first instance. If you must have warranty work done elsewhere for road-safety or logistical reasons, seek the dealer’s approval and make arrangements with them about who should pay the repair costs. Obtain the dealer’s approval in writing.


Waiving the warranty


Under the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act you have the option to forgo the statutory warranty on your car in order to negotiate a better sale price. This option is called a ‘Waiver of Rights.’ To waive your warranty rights, you must sign an agreement (Schedule 6) and have the agreement witnessed by either a Justice of the Peace, a lawyer or an authorised bank manager. The dealer is not permitted to make it a condition of sale. It must be your choice.

You should always have the vehicle checked out independently before you waive your warranty rights. The RAA, an MTA service centre or a qualified independent mechanic can provide this service.

If you are unsure of the Waiver of Rights process, contact Consumer and Business Services on 131 882 for advice.


Extended warranties


Some dealers sell or provide free-of-charge extended warranties. These are not the same as your statutory warranty and should not be used until after your statutory warranty has expired.

Make sure you understand what the extended warranty being offered actually covers. Read the policy document or booklet provided by your extended warranty provider carefully.


Problems with a dealer


If you have difficulties with the warranty, standard of repairs or other matters, you should immediately bring it to the attention of the manager or owner of the business. Be calm, polite but firm when explaining the issue and offer solutions that will resolve the problem.

If your efforts fail, put your complaint in writing to the manager or owner, suggesting possible solutions. Request a response by a suitable date.

If the matter is still unresolved, contact Consumer Affairs for advice.

The MTA may assist with complaints concerning its dealer members and the RAA also may provide advice to its members.




  • Set a price limit you can afford.
  • Take your time, don’t be rushed or pressured.
  • If you need finance, shop around for the best deal.
  • Understand your rights and the dealers’ obligations.
  • Check what is covered by the warranty.
  • Don’t sign anything until you’re sure the car is okay and you really do want to buy it .
  • Have the car checked by the RAA, an MTA service centre or a qualified independent mechanic before you decide to buy.
  • Remember to allow for stamp duty, transfer fees and insurance costs .
  • If the vehicle isn’t registered, you will be responsible for this.
  • Inspect the white display sheet on the car. Make sure the details match the car you’re buying. Ring the previous owner if you want.
  • Have everything you negotiate with the dealer put in writing.

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Buying from a private seller


In the case of a private vehicle sale, where you buy a used car from someone who is not a dealer, you are not protected by the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act and statutory warranty will not apply. Basically, once you have driven away in the vehicle, you are on your own.

If you choose to buy privately, ensure that you ask plenty of questions and obtain written proof of the vehicle’s history (including servicing) to be sure that it is a genuine ‘private’ sale. Be wary of vehicles being sold by a third party who may not be the owner. Also be wary of cars with modifications as there may be insurance and legal implications.

At the time of purchase, make sure that both you and the seller complete and sign the Application for Transfer of Registration and the Disposal Notice, which can be found on the reverse side of the current Certificate of Registration for the vehicle. As the purchaser, it is your responsibility to lodge the Application for Transfer with the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure within 14 days from the date of purchase. Failure to do so may result in an additional fee. It is the seller’s responsibility to lodge the Disposal Notice.


Personal Property Securities Register


When you’re buying a car privately, it’s important to determine if the vehicle has any outstanding payments owed to a finance company, or any other encumbrances that you should be aware of before buying.


  • You can check the status of the vehicle online using the Personal Property Securities Register or call 1300 007 777.
  • You must provide the vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or chassis number in order to do this.
  • If you buy a vehicle without first checking the register, you run the risk of a bank or credit provider repossessing the vehicle or chasing you for any unpaid money.

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[h=1]Buying at auction[/h]Buying a car at auction may be cheaper than buying through a dealer or even buying privately, but it also presents the most risk. For example, many auction houses won’t let you test drive the car before auction day, so it’s difficult to get a ‘feel’ for the vehicle and to listen for any unusual sounds while driving. So, it’s important to inspect the vehicle as much as possible without driving it, including starting the engine, because under the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers (Cooling off Rights) Amendment Act there is no cooling off period if you buy at auction.


When a licensed second-hand vehicle dealer sells a vehicle through an auction they must meet the same statutory warranty requirements as if the vehicle were sold from a car yard. When a vehicle is sold at auction on behalf of a person or business that is not a dealer, warranty requirements under the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act do not apply.

In either case, any vehicle for sale at an auction house should have a notice displayed in the window giving details such as:


  • the auctioneer’s name
  • the name and address of the previous owner (which, if not written on the form, must be supplied to you if you request it)
  • the total distance the vehicle has travelled (odometer reading) and a statement about the accuracy of the odometer reading
  • whether the vehicle is covered by statutory warranty.

For motor vehicles, this information will be on either a Form 7 (a dealer or auctioneer sale) or a Form 11 (a non-dealer sale). For motorcycles, it is a Form 8 (dealer) or Form 12 (non-dealer). If you decide to buy the vehicle, you must be given a copy of this notice and of the appropriate sale notice.



Now the car auctions, I'm not sure of the best ones in Adelaide hopefully one of the locals can advise but one that seems popular nationwide is Pickles


Pickles Car Auctions Adelaide


others are:


Manheim Car Auctions


Carnet Auctions

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New protections for used car buyers


New laws commenced on 29 November 2010 to improve protections for South Australian consumers buying a vehicle from second-hand vehicle dealers.

The Second-hand Vehicle Dealers (Cooling-off Rights) Amendment Act 2009 amends the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act 1995.

A key feature of the legislation is a two day cooling off period during which consumers can consider the purchase.

Cooling off rights


The changes introduce a cooling off period of two clear business days, including Saturdays.

The cooling off provision applies to second-hand vehicles, including demonstration vehicles. Cooling off periods will not apply to the purchase of new vehicles, auction sales or purchases by companies or dealers.

A purchaser may rescind the sales contract by giving the dealer written notice before the expiry of the two day cooling off period.

A dealer will be entitled to seek a deposit of up to a maximum of 10% of the contract price. If the purchaser decides to rescind the contract, the dealer will be required to refund the money paid by the purchaser by the end of the next clear business day after receiving the cooling off notice. The dealer may keep an amount equal to 2% of the contract price or $100 (whichever is the lesser).

It will be an offence for a dealer to demand that a purchaser make a payment other than the deposit before the expiry of the cooling off period.

Waiving cooling off rights


The purchaser is entitled to waive their right to cool off by signing a waiver form. The right to waive will accommodate purchasers who want or need to take a vehicle immediately and who are happy to forego their cooling off rights.

The waiver form must be witnessed by a person other than the dealer or a salesperson who is involved in any way in the sale of the vehicle.

It is an offence for a dealer to induce a purchaser to waive their cooling off rights.

Other key provisions

  • Rebuttable presumption that a person is a dealer if he or she sells more than 4 vehicles during a 12 month period expanded to include buying vehicles
  • New rebuttable presumption introduced that a person and his or her close associate are both dealers if they buy or sell more than 6 vehicles in a 12 month period
  • Introduction of a negative licensing scheme for salespersons
  • Removal of airbags from list of accessories that dealers do not have a statutory duty to repair
  • Increases in expiation fees and penalties

Changes commenced on 29 November 2010


A video is available which outlines the new rights of South Australian consumers.




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When buying a car the first thing you want to know is how much is it really worth. In the UK I'm sure many of you used the Glass's Guide, well over here we have a similar one called the Red Book http://www.redbook.com.au Now if you are buying a car this is an excellent guide and if you are selling private it's a good resource. However, if you decide to sell to a dealer they tend to have their own valuators on site and they don't seem to give anything close to these figures, but then that's car dealers for you.


If you are buying private and know nothing about cars then I would recommend getting the car inspected. The RAA offer this service for around $250 it may seem a lot especially if the car is a lemon but it's better to spend $250 than lose a few thousand. http://www.raa.com.au/motoring-and-road-safety/vehicle-inspections


If going for an older car I would also recommend the RAA breakdown we go with the top one and have had to use them twice in the outback. The last one we rolled the 4x4 and it took 2 1/2 hours to get the emergency services to us. We were in Queensland so it was the RACQ paid for us accommdation, a hire car and then travel back home. So we definitely got our monies worth, although I don't recommend rolling your car to see what a great service you get:frown: http://www.raa.com.au/road-service/buy-road-service

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Thanks KTee,

We will be looking for one car for hubby when we arrive, but have decided that thanks to The Iron Lady (poms in oz), that it is going to be best for us to ship our Volvo over for me to use.

Will have this info for hubby to read later.


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Thanks KTee,

We will be looking for one car for hubby when we arrive, but have decided that thanks to The Iron Lady (poms in oz), that it is going to be best for us to ship our Volvo over for me to use.

Will have this info for hubby to read later.


Christian @ Iron Lady is brilliant isn't he.

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Had lovely quote from Iain at Iron lady, but yes truely brilliant. Worked out that we couldn't get a similar car over there for the total cost would be to ship. Also the car is already adapted so no stress about having to learn to handle new car and have it adapted as well as everything else.

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Great thread. We've just been through the hassle of buying a car for the second time since arriving, it's a pain so those tips are very useful. I would recommend the RAA warranty inspection, we did that with our first car - a couple of weeks before the warranty expired and there were 3 things that needed fixing up, certainly saved us money.

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