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Data shows used car buyers keep making these mistakes


If you find used car buying painful, or have been stung in the past, you're not alone.

Research shows that almost 50% of second-hand car buyers worried they'd bought a lemon. Here's a breakdown of the findings and tips on how you can avoid getting burned.

Used car buying study data breakdown

The findings of the research, published by Allianz Australia, are pretty interesting.

They reveal the following:

  • Predictably, the majority of second-hand car buyers (85%) are looking to save some cash or can't afford a new car.
  • Over a fifth (21%) of those surveyed believed a second-hand car was a more environmentally conscious purchase.
  • Just shy of a third (32%) thought they'd bought a lemon (a car that has several mechanical issues).
  • 21% said they paid more, thanks to pandemic-related price hikes.
  • A large chunk of the responses (82%) showed most buyers paid $100 more than the asking price and 48% had to fork out more than $500 to remedy problems right after buying!

How to avoid dodgy private car sellers and lemons

Shockingly, almost 1 in 10 used car buyers did zero research about the car they bought.

Tip #1. Learn from their mistakes.

Research cars. This sounds complicated, but it's not. Make up a shortlist of the things you need from a vehicle, and work out your budget, whether buying cash or taking out a used car loan. Likely, you'll see that one category of cars ticks the boxes, such as a small hatchback (though there might be some overlap nowadays, with the popularity of crossover and compact SUVs).

Then, check out car reviews for models in that segment. The reviewers might help you rule a car out altogether. For example, they may highlight that the car is too cramped in the back or that it drinks fuel.

Next, create a shortlist of cars. Check for vehicle safety recalls on That's a good way to learn about common/uncommon failures and things to look for. Also, spend time reading owner reviews of the cars and visit forums to get an idea of the car's general mechanical issues – as well as rough costs to fix. Once you've done that, you can narrow in on 1 or 2 car models.

Tip #2. Inspect the car properly and learn about the car-buying process.

Almost a quarter of used car buyers didn't know how the process worked, with the same number saying it was confusing. We have a guide to help clear anything up for you.

A third of the respondents simply took the car for a test drive, evaluated the car based on its looks or accepted the seller as trustworthy. That's one way you could get conned into buying a lemon. Dodgy sellers know all kinds of little tricks to cobble together a broken car with temporary fixes.

Instead, take along a mechanic or have the car professionally inspected, with a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. They'll check the engine bay and underneath the car, evaluating the mechanical components for signs of damage, wear and leaks. Only 25% of those polled took a car to an independent mechanic for an inspection.

67% neglected to see if the car had any registered security interests. You should always perform a Personal Property Securities Register search to verify if a car is encumbered (to see if the owner still owes money on the vehicle, due to outstanding finance). Make sure to look over the logbook too, ensuring everything is legit.

Tip #3. Test drive the car.

A worrying 30% of those asked failed to test drive the car. To be fair, 20% were worried about driving the car with someone they didn't know. But that can be remedied by taking along a friend or family member.

To know what to look for, head over to our used car buyer's checklist.

Tip #4. Get car insurance.

Make sure when you buy your used car that you're properly covered with a car insurance policy that's right for you. 23% of the surveyed buyers only thought about car insurance after taking ownership. 10% lost out when they had a bingle or the car got damaged before they had taken out a suitable insurance policy.

Want timesaving, trustworthy used car buying advice? Then read our car reviews, which combine the findings of multiple experts. You should definitely compare car loan options as well as car insurance, as doing so could save you money!

Picture: Unsplash

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