Home Wheel Talk Buying a car

Buying a car

By carbar on the September 27, 2023

16 minutes

Imagine finding the perfect car that suits your lifestyle, budget, and needs without breaking a sweat! With the right information and guidance, it's possible. Our comprehensive...

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Imagine finding the perfect car that suits your lifestyle, budget, and needs without breaking a sweat! With the right information and guidance, it's possible. Our comprehensive guide will take you step-by-step through the car-buying process, starting with setting a budget and exploring financing options. We will talk about researching the ideal vehicle, safety ratings, and recalls, as well as trustworthy car dealers and private sellers. Plus, how to negotiate the best deal, verify the car's history, legal status, and choose the right insurance coverage for added protection. Get ready for a smooth ride on your car buying journey with carbar!

Short summary:

  • Create a budget and explore financing options before purchasing.
  • Research vehicles, safety ratings and recalls, and car dealers/private sellers to make informed decisions.
  • Verify the vehicle’s history and legal status prior to purchase. Selecting appropriate insurance coverage for protection.

Establishing Your Budget and Financing

Before embarking on your car-buying journey, it's essential to establish a budget that takes into account not only the car's price but also car loan options, trade-in value, and additional fees associated with buying a new or used car. These factors will help you determine how much you can afford, ensuring that you don't overspend and end up with a car that becomes a financial burden.

Trade-in Value

When it comes to trading in your existing car, understanding its trade-in value is crucial to getting the best price possible. The trade-in value is calculated based on factors like mileage, condition, demand for the make and model, and your negotiating skills.

The simplest and quickest way to find out your vehicle’s trade-in value online, without having to provide any personal information is through carbar. This will allow you to determine what your vehicle is worth if you trade it in versus selling it yourself. 

You may also want to do some additional research to determine your vehicle’s market value, which will help you negotiate a deal. 

Car Loan Options

One of the crucial aspects of budgeting for a new or used car is exploring various car loan options. Research lenders, their interest rates, and service charges to determine how much you can afford to borrow. More importantly, compare rates to find the most affordable option. 

However, if your credit score is less than stellar, don't lose hope. You can still save up for a larger down payment or take steps to improve your credit score to potentially secure a lower interest rate on your car loan. Remember, a little research and planning can go a long way toward making your car buying experience less stressful.

Researching Your Ideal Vehicle

Now that you have a clear budget in mind, it's time to research your ideal vehicle. Consider the purpose of the car, its storage capacity, and fuel efficiency, among other factors. Additionally, consider any specific needs, such as transporting young children or minimising air pollution.

Research online. If you're buying a used or pre-owned car, search through traditional classifieds (like carsales) or search carbar which has a wide range of used cars, complete with inspection reports.

If you have decided to purchase a new vehicle, classifieds and other vehicle-related websites can provide you with information pertaining to how much the vehicle will cost. 

Alternatively, you can also enquire with carbar Concierge and our team will help you find a great deal as we have vehicles from across 1000 dealers.

You will also want to consider the costs of running a car in the long term. Check the RACV website. The website surveys the cost of running a car, detailing most of the associated costs.

In addition to traditional car buying options, carbar offers a convenient car subscription service, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of driving without the long-term commitment. Remember, finding the perfect car means striking the right balance between your needs, preferences, and budget.

Evaluating Car Types

Today we have quite a few car types to choose from; thus, choosing one can feel overwhelming. For starters, you will want to settle on a body type, and then, based on that, find a car with that body type that uses a fuel type that best suits your needs. 

Body Types

Sedan - Sedans are the most common car body type, known for their four doors and separate compartments for passengers and cargo. They provide a balanced mix of comfort, fuel efficiency, and practicality. Sedans are suitable for daily commuting, family trips, and city driving due to their compact size and good maneuverability.

SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) - SUVs are versatile vehicles designed for various terrains, with ample space for passengers and cargo. They are ideal for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and those who require extra storage capacity. SUVs offer higher ground clearance and often come with optional four-wheel drive, making them suitable for both urban and off-road adventures.

Hatchback - Hatchbacks have a rear door that opens upwards, providing easy access to the cargo area. They are compact yet practical, making them suitable for urban driving and short trips. Hatchbacks offer versatility for carrying both passengers and smaller loads, making them a popular choice for young drivers and urban dwellers.

Coupe - Coupes are two-door cars with a sleek and sporty design. They often prioritise style over practicality, with a focus on performance and aesthetics. Coupes are favoured by enthusiasts who seek a more engaging driving experience.

Convertible - Convertibles, or cabriolets, have a retractable roof that can be folded down, allowing passengers to enjoy open-air driving. They offer a sense of freedom and are popular in sunny climates. Convertibles are often chosen for leisurely drives and weekend getaways, offering a unique driving experience and style.

Minivan - Minivans are designed with family comfort in mind, offering spacious interiors and seating for multiple passengers. They are equipped with sliding doors for easy access, making them ideal for transporting children and large groups. Minivans are commonly used for family holidays, school runs, and carpooling.

Crossover - Crossovers combine the features of SUVs and sedans, offering the comfort and handling of a sedan with the versatility and higher driving position of an SUV. They are well-suited for those seeking a blend of space, utility, and fuel efficiency. Crossovers are popular for urban driving, daily commuting, and light off-road adventures.

Station Wagon - Station wagons feature an extended rear cargo area, providing more storage space than a sedan. They offer practicality, extra seating, and often superior handling compared to SUVs. Station wagons are suitable for families, road trips, and those who require additional cargo capacity without the bulk of an SUV.

Pickup Truck - Pickup trucks have an open cargo tray at the rear, making them ideal for transporting heavy or large items. They are commonly used for work purposes, towing trailers, and hauling loads. Pickup trucks come in various sizes and configurations, from compact to full-size, and are chosen by professionals and outdoor enthusiasts.

Fuel Types

Hybrid cars – These are designed to use the power of both batteries and combustion engines, depending on driving conditions. This provides greater flexibility for the car.

Electric vehicles – While they are more expensive up front, they can be more cost-efficient to run. Plus, they are environmentally friendly. 

Diesel Engines - In the realm of electric vehicle options, diesel engines emit fewer greenhouse gases than petrol engines. However, diesel engines produce more particles than other fuel sources, such as LPG and CNG.

Petrol Engine vehicles – These run on petrol, with a conventional 4 or 6-cylinder engine at its heart.

Before settling on a fuel type, consider the Australian Government's Green Vehicle Guide and Fuel Consumption Guide Database to make an informed decision on a car that is both environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient.

You will want to weigh the pros and cons of each car type, keeping in mind their environmental impact, fuel efficiency, and availability of support infrastructure, such as charging stations for electric vehicles.

If you want to drive an EV but are not ready to buy a new one, you can find out more about buying a used EV with carbar.

Safety Ratings and Recalls

Safety should always be a top priority when buying a car. Consult resources like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Vehicle Comparison Tool and the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) to evaluate the safety ratings and recalls of various cars.

Remember to compare safety ratings within the same car category for accurate assessments. By prioritising safety, you can ensure peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.

Understanding The Star Ratings

The ANCAP star rating system ranges from 0 to 5 stars, with a higher star rating indicating better safety performance. The ratings are based on a combination of crash test results, safety technology assessments, and the availability of advanced safety features. Here's what each star rating signifies:

0 Stars: A vehicle with a 0-star rating offers poor safety performance and lacks basic safety features. It's likely to have inadequate structural integrity and offer minimal protection in crashes.

1 Star: A 1-star rating indicates a limited level of safety protection for occupants and pedestrians. The vehicle may lack crucial safety technologies.

2 Stars: A 2-star rating suggests that the vehicle offers below-average safety protection and may lack certain advanced safety features.

3 Stars: A 3-star rating indicates average safety protection for occupants and some basic safety technologies, but there's room for improvement.

4 Stars: A 4-star rating signifies good safety protection for occupants and advanced safety features. However, there may be some areas where the vehicle can further enhance safety.

5 Stars: A 5-star rating is the highest achievable rating and represents excellent safety protection for occupants and pedestrians. The vehicle is equipped with advanced safety technologies and features.

Finding the Right Car Dealer or Private Seller

When it comes to purchasing a car, you have two main avenues: licensed dealers and private sellers. Licensed dealerships offer warranties and additional legal protections, whereas private sellers can initially provide a more cost-effective option but with limited consumer rights.

You will want to weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully to ensure you make an informed decision that suits your needs and preferences.

Licensed Dealers vs. Private Sellers

Licensed dealers offer warranties when you purchase a car. For used cars, a statutory warranty is a legally mandated warranty provided by licensed motor dealers at no additional cost. These warranties offer added peace of mind and protection, ensuring that you are covered in case of any unexpected issues with the car.

On the other hand, private sellers may sell for a lower price compared to dealers, which makes the purchase more affordable. However, buying from a private seller comes with less security and typically no warranty.

Carbar takes an extra step to ensure your peace of mind. Beyond the distinct warranties mandated by individual state regulations (which may differ), purchasing a car online through carbar includes a reassuring 7-day money-back guarantee as well as an extensive 12-month warranty. Every car undergoes a thorough inspection, and you can effortlessly access inspection reports online. These measures represent just a few of the strategic approaches carbar employs to streamline and simplify the car-buying process, ensuring it's both effortless and convenient for you.

Check out our How It Works page for more information.

Visit carbar for a wide selection of cars and a reliable buying experience.

Dealer Extras and Incentives

Negotiating dealer extras and incentives can make your car-buying experience more rewarding. Dealer extras refer to additional features or services provided by the dealership, while incentives are discounts or promotions offered by manufacturers to stimulate sales.

Don't be afraid to ask dealers about complimentary benefits or additional assistance they may offer, especially if you're considering a slow-selling car model. A little negotiation can go a long way toward securing a better deal.

Inspecting and Test Driving Potential Cars

Once you've narrowed down the options, it's time to inspect and test-drive potential cars. Bring along an informed companion, review the vehicle's logbook, and inspect its components. Additionally, test drive the car on a variety of roads to get a feel for its performance and handling.

Remember, a thorough inspection and test drive are vital to ensuring that you're making the right choice.

Inspection Checklist

During the inspection, look for potential fluid leaks and discoloration of the paint, which could indicate inadequate maintenance. Ask the seller about any modifications made to the car.

If you're not confident in your ability to inspect the car yourself, consider bringing someone with experience in cars or getting the car inspected by a professional. A diligent inspection can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises and ensure that the car is in good condition.

Test Drive Tips

Before hitting the road for a test drive, adjust the driver's seat and mirrors to your comfort level and familiarise yourself with the car's controls. During the test drive, evaluate the brakes, acceleration, and handling of the car at various speeds. Drive the car on different types of roads and at various speeds to fully understand its handling capabilities.

Pay attention to other aspects of the car, such as the ease of parking, the functionality of the dashboard display, and the comfort of the passenger and rear seats. If you're considering multiple models for your next car, test drive each one to make an informed comparison.

A comprehensive test drive is essential to helping you find the perfect car for your needs.

Carbar makes it easy to book a test drive online. Also, because we own the cars sold, they are inspected, and the report for each one is published online. So, all you need to do is compare and book a test drive for the vehicles you are interested in purchasing. 

Verifying the Car's History and Legal Status

Before finalising your purchase, it's crucial to verify the car's history and legal status. Check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR), registration address, odometer reading, and research replacement parts.

Reviewing the car's service history will also provide insight into any prior repairs and maintenance. A thorough background check ensures that you're making a wise investment in a car with a clean history.

Checking for Outstanding Debts and Thefts

To verify if the car is legally registered and free from any debts, consult the Australian Government's PPSR or similar services offered by motoring organisations. You can also inquire at your local police station by providing the car's VIN or chassis number.

It's crucial to ensure that the car is free from any outstanding debts or theft records, as these can create legal complications down the road.

Examining Service Logbooks and Repairs

Review the car's service logbook, which includes records of tasks completed during each service, such as safety checks, measurements, replacements, and repairs if needed. Assess the car's service history, including regular maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations, and brake pad replacements.

Be sure to check for any signs of major repairs, such as engine or transmission work. A thorough examination of the service logbooks and repairs can provide valuable insight into the car's overall condition and maintenance history.

Negotiating the Best Deal

Armed with the knowledge you've gathered, it's time to negotiate the best deal for your car. Make an offer based on the car's value, and consider using car sourcing and buying services to help you make an informed decision. Compare offers from different dealers to ensure that you're getting the most favourable terms and prices.

Remember, negotiation is an art, and being well-prepared can make a difference in securing the best deal.

Making an Offer

When making an offer, be confident in your assessment of the car's value and be prepared to explain why your offer is reasonable and fair. Approach negotiations in a polite and respectful manner, and be prepared to move on if the offer is not satisfactory.

It is worth mentioning that when buying from a dealer, there is very little, if any, wiggle room in terms of pricing. Most dealers in Australia advertise the best price for that time. However, it could be that as time goes on, the value depreciates, but this is a risk that dealers take. This also applies to online dealers that advertise a no-haggle policy.

If you want to negotiate the price, you may have better luck buying a vehicle from a private seller. But it is important to do your research to determine a fair price for the vehicle you want to buy.

If you're not confident in your negotiation skills, consider engaging the services of a car broker to handle the negotiations on your behalf.

Comparing Dealer Offers

Comparing prices and being open to other options can greatly benefit your car-buying experience. Explore multiple offers and be flexible in your choices, as this can help you obtain the most favourable outcome during your car shopping journey.

Don't hesitate to ask dealers about any discounts, promotions, or additional assistance they may offer. A bit of comparison shopping can go a long way toward helping you secure the best deal for your dream car.

Finalising the Paperwork and Insurance

Once you've negotiated the best deal, it's time to finalise the paperwork and insurance. Ensure that you obtain all relevant documents, such as the original registration papers, service history, and logbook, before signing any agreement.

Read the contract carefully, and make sure you understand all the terms and conditions. Finally, don't forget to insure your car to protect your investment by providing financial security in case of any accidents or damages.

Reviewing Contracts and Receipts

It's essential to review contracts before finalising your car purchase. Read the contract thoroughly, examine it for any discrepancies or omissions, and confirm that all pertinent information is included. If something is unclear, ask questions and take notes for future reference.

Seek legal counsel if mainly buying privately or from a private seller to ensure a better understanding of contracts and receipts. A meticulous review of these documents can help you avoid any potential misunderstandings or future disputes.

Choosing Car Insurance

Car insurance is a crucial aspect of car ownership, offering financial protection in case of accidents or damage to the car. Consider the type of coverage required, the amount of coverage needed, and the cost of the policy when selecting car insurance. Compare different policies and take advantage of any discounts or special offers that may be available.

Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance in Australia serves as a pivotal requirement across the nation. This form of insurance is designed to provide crucial protection to individuals involved in road accidents, ensuring that the necessary financial support is available to cover injury-related costs.

The inevitability of accidents underscores the necessity of CTP insurance. This type of insurance functions as a safety net, providing financial assistance to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation, and compensation for those affected by road accidents.

Traditional Insurers like NRMA or more flexible online players like Rollin tend to offer flexibility and better protection.

Adequate car insurance not only safeguards your investment but also provides peace of mind while you're on the road.


Buying a car can be an exciting and rewarding experience when approached with careful planning and research. Starting with establishing a budget and financing options to researching your ideal vehicle, inspecting and test-driving potential cars, and verifying their history and legal status, each step plays a crucial role in ensuring that you make an informed decision. By negotiating the best deal, finalising paperwork, and choosing the right car insurance, you can confidently drive away in the perfect car from Carbar. The open road awaits – happy motoring!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to buy a car: What are the essential steps to follow?

Buying a car should not be taken lightly, as it is an important decision. To ensure the best experience and the perfect car for your lifestyle, follow these 8 essential steps: 

  1. If you have a car, get a trade-in price for it.
  2. If needed, understand how much you can borrow.
  3. Once you decide on your budget, consider purchase and running costs.
  4. Establish a short list of cars within your budget.
  5. Ask questions about the history of the car.
  6. Inspect, validate, and test drive the vehicle.
  7. Agree on price and negotiate inclusions.
  8. Review the paperwork before signing

By following the steps above, you’ll have everything you need to buy your car successfully.

Q: How do I establish a budget for buying a car?

Creating a budget to purchase a car requires careful consideration of your financial situation. First, assess your total income and expenses to determine how much you can comfortably allocate for car payments, insurance, fuel, and maintenance. 

You then factor in ongoing costs like registration and potential interest rates on loans. Consider the type of car you need and its associated costs, such as fuel efficiency and insurance premiums. Research different car options and their prices, factoring in both new and used vehicles. Be realistic about your budget's limitations and aim to spend within your means. Remember that a well-planned budget ensures not only being able to afford the car but also maintaining it over time.

Q: What should I look for when inspecting a used car?

When inspecting a used car, make sure to pay close attention to the vehicle’s overall condition, check for any defects or damages, and look at the car’s service logbook and repair history.

Check the tires, brakes, and other mechanical components to make sure they are in good working order. Make sure all lights, indicators, and warning lights are on.

It is important to take your time and thoroughly inspect the car before making a purchase.

Q: How do I ensure that the car I'm buying has a clean history and legal status?

To ensure that the car you are buying has a clean history and legal status, request records from the seller, check its Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) status, verify the registration address, odometer reading, and research any replacement parts.

It is important to take steps to ensure that the car you are buying is in good condition and has a valid legal status. 

Q: What factors should I consider when choosing car insurance?

When choosing car insurance, make sure to evaluate the features that matter most to you, such as cost, coverage, deductible, and available discounts.

Mandatory Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance is a crucial starting point. This insurance covers injury-related costs in the event of an accident. Beyond CTP, you should consider the various comprehensive insurance options. Australia's issue of underinsurance underscores the importance of selecting an appropriate level of coverage.

When opting for comprehensive insurance, explore factors such as agreed value versus market value for the sum insured. Agreed value ensures that you'll receive a predetermined amount in the event of a total loss, while market value covers the vehicle's current market value.

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