Buying a new or used vehicle

Buying a used vehicle

This page has information for people looking to buy a used car in the Northern Territory (NT).

You can buy a used car in any of the following ways:

  • through a licensed motor vehicle dealer
  • from a private seller
  • at an auction.

Before you buy

When looking for a car, you should do all of the following:

  • decide how much you can afford and set a price limit
  • check advertisements to get an idea of what you can expect to pay - websites like Redbook can also help you to find out the market value of a vehicle
  • visit as many car yards as possible so you can compare deals.

Where and how you can buy

Find out different ways you can buy and what you must do before buying a used vehicle.

All NT motor vehicle dealers selling to the public must have a licence.

Their licensed motor vehicle dealer number should be clearly displayed at their premises.

Buying through licensed dealers may be more expensive than buying from a private seller but you have greater protection under the law.

These protections include all of the following:

  • if a car is less than 10 years old and has less than 160,000km on the clock - it is covered by a mandatory three-month or 5,000km statutory warranty
  • if a motorcycle is less than five years old and has travelled less than 30,000km at the time of sale - it is covered by a mandatory three-month or 5,000km warranty
  • you will have a clear title which protects you against repossession if anyone owes money on a car and ensures it is not a stolen vehicle.

If a car is more than 10 years old or has more than 160,000km on the clock, it will not be covered by the statutory warranty but still needs to be in roadworthy condition if it is registered when sold.

Signing away your consumer rights

The dealer must comply with the statutory warranty unless you sign a specific form, called a form 12.

If you sign a form 12, you will no longer have any rights if the vehicle is faulty.

Think carefully before signing this form, even if the dealer offers you a better price. This may end up costing you a lot more money in the long run.

If you sign the form, it must be witnessed and read out to you by either:

  • a member of the NT police or
  • an officer authorised by the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs.

Holding deposit

You may be asked to put down a deposit while you have a car mechanically checked or organise your loan.

Make sure you get a receipt which states your deposit is refundable ‘subject to finance’, otherwise you can lose the deposit if you don’t buy the car.

Find out more about contracts and deposits.

Extended car warranties

You can buy extended car warranties from licensed motor vehicle dealers. These warranties extend the period of cover beyond any statutory warranty that applies.

Before buying an extended car warranty, read the policy carefully. Many of these warranties are only valid if you observe strict servicing conditions and generally only cover specific items.

Check out exactly what is covered and under what circumstances claims will not be accepted.

Find out more about warranties.

If you choose to a buy a vehicle privately, be aware that you have less protection as the Australian Consumer Law does not cover private sales.

When you see a car you're interested in buying, you should follow all of the steps below.

Step 1. Get a professional inspection. It will cost extra but can save you an expensive mistake.

Step 2. Make sure the vehicle is not:

You can check this by:

  • calling the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) on 1300 007 777 or
  • going to the PPSR website.
    • You will need the vehicle identification number (VIN) or chassis number to check the register.
    • There is a small fee for this service.

Step 3. Check the car over yourself, or get a family member or friend who knows about cars to check it for you.

Checking the car yourself

You should check all of the following:

  • seatbelts - check for wear and tear
  • headlights, brake lights and indicators all work
  • air-conditioning and horn work
  • windscreen wipers and instrument gauges work
  • look at the body and see if there are any bumps, ripples, mismatched colours or panels out of alignment, which can mean the car has been in an accident
  • look for rust - check under the carpet
  • if the hoses are soft and spongy they may need to replaced
  • check the suspension by pushing down on one corner and letting go, if it bounces more than once it has worn shock absorbers
  • check the radiator water is clear or green and check the radiator fins for rust or crumbling
  • the oil should be between the dipstick markers and black in colour, if it is milky or grey there may be water in the oil which can indicate a serious problem
  • the transmission oil should be cherry pink, if it is a dark burnt colour it could mean that the transmission has severely overheated
  • start the car and let it idle, listening for rattling or knocking in the engine compartment - if you rev it and there is smoke it could indicate engine problems
  • take the car for a test drive and check its performance while driving in a straight line, braking and taking off - if it is a manual, make sure it moves away smoothly and the clutch doesn’t slip.

Buying a vehicle through an auction is similar to buying through a private seller.

Check the vehicle out as thoroughly as possible because the Australian Consumer Law does not cover anything purchased at an auction.

Be sure you are prepared to pay the cost of any repairs.

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Last updated: 23 December 2021

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