Taken For A Ride (Purchasing a Second-hand Car)

buying a car
Buying a car
buying a car

Buying a car

I am shopping for a new (second hand, but ‘new’ to me) car, as my current one is old and about to go full belly-up. It’s been a faithful steed, but the time has come to upgrade. Am I flush with cash? Nah. But I have a tidy sum saved that will allow me to jettison into a future with power steering and other nifty power options most people take for granted.

I’ve been shopping online- Carsales, CarsGuide, Gumtree, Drive, and Trading Post etc. I have looked at individual car yards online. I have looked at both privately advertised and dealer used cars. But what astonishes me is how brazen people are when it comes to being dishonest about the car they’re trying to sell me. And I fear for people who are less mechanically savvy who will fall for their tricks and end up buying a total fizzer.

Examples of my experiences?  Yep. Let’s do it. My first pet peeve is straight up saying stupid stuff about the car in the ‘sell’ section. I have come across people boasting the following of their vehicles:

“This Corolla goes great on the water” Now while that would be helpful if I was shopping for a boat, but: I’m not.

“This Focus comes with all mod cons, is totes reliable and has NEVER had pot smoked in it.” Well- no pot smoked in the car. What a relief. Because that was totes my first concern.

“Although the car is advertised as being black in colour, it’s actually yellow.” Why? Just why?

Having said that, I can stop and have a giggle. What REALLY gets me is dishonesty. I have had people try and sell me cars that were write-offs, that had finance owing on them, had been in major accidents with some quick panel beating to cover it, flood damaged, rusted inside out (but covered at a surface level), busted brakes, ‘icy cold aircon’ that actually didn’t work and needed to be gassed, lying about how much rego is on the car, had people try to con me into giving them an online deposit without even seeing ‘the car’- the car that didn’t exist.

Be upfront. And don’t think that saying ‘lady owner’ makes it a more attractive option, it doesn’t. Don’t assume when dealing with me that because I’m a female, I’ll fall for your bogus claims and drive off into the sunset in your ‘immaculate, one owner’ vehicle that I bothered to do a REVS check on: it’s had several owners, has money owing on it, and is a repairable write-off, even though you prettied it up and thought you’d covered your trail, cause hey: who is going to bother actually doing a background check to see if they are at risk of being ripped off? Oh that’s right. I am.

Handy tip for those looking to purchase a used vehicle:

When shopping for a second hand/used car, it’s a smart idea to do a REVS check, which is a quick online process where you use the VIN chassis number of the vehicle (if the seller won’t share this with you, they have something to hide) and you enter the details into the REVS site. It will provide you with a Vehicle History Report, which checks if a car has been written off, is stolen, it is checked for flood and storm damage, checks whether the speedo (odometer) has been wound back to give you a false reading of how many kilometres the vehicle has done), and includes other practical information like the ANCAP safety rating (5 stars being the safest).

Some insurance companies will offer to send one of their mechanics to inspect a potential purchase for you. If the seller baulks at the idea of a mechanic giving the car a quick inspection, chances are there are underlying issues that they hoped to conceal. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to get a full logbook history. It may be a used car, but it’s your money and it’s an investment that you’ll be living with for a while. You need to know that you’ve done your best to not be ripped off by opportunistic and/ or shady people who are more than willing to take advantage of your trusting nature. Am I saying all car sellers are dishonest? Of course not. I’m saying that you should be vigilant when looking for a second hand vehicle. And if it seems too good to be true, (in my experience) it is. Go with your gut, no matter how sleek the car may appear. If something doesn’t feel right, either investigate it, or move on.

Have you experienced similar difficulties when trying to purchase a second hand vehicle? Have you ever been tricked or ripped off buying anything else?


  • Robomum

    Having done this before, I was nodding my head at almost every line. I strongly recommend a book that was loaned to me by an old work colleague. It’s called The Dog and Lemon Guide. It gives a rating and an honest overview on most vehicles sold here in Oz. Happy shopping – hope you get a good one!

    • Maree Talidu

      I have this book and it’s been a lifesaver!