7 things to know before buying a car

cartoon on man putting boxes on to a blue car next to a couple


Posted December 01, 2017

RACV’s top tips for buying a new or used car.

Have you done your research?


  • Do as much research as you can. Read consumer guides, get advice from Consumer Affairs Victoria , visit car sale sites, and most importantly, read RACV new and used car reviews.
  • Consider what type of car suits your needs. For example, there’s no point buying a 4WD if you never leave the city.
  • Think about your car financing and budget. Will you buy a new car? Will you be visiting used car dealerships? 
  • Always do a vehicle check. Take the prospective vehicle for a test drive.

Is a new or used car better?


  • New cars are less likely to present complications and can offer peace of mind.
  • New cars usually have improved fuel efficiency but face immediate depreciation.
  • A used car can be more affordable.
  • A well-maintained used car with regular service history can be a good buy.

How much do you really know about a car's history?


  • Private sales can be risky, so be extra vigilant with car history checks. In Victoria, the online VicRoads registration check is a great place to start. Simply enter the vehicle's registration and the VicRoads vehicle check will flag any disputes or sanctions associated with the vehicle.
  • RACV members can save on Car History reports on used vehicles with RACV discounts.
  • Consider having a used car independently inspected via RACV vehicle inspections.

What are your car finance and insurance options?


  • Consider all the fees and charges you may have to pay including registration fees, TAC charges, number-plate costs, government motor vehicle duty, dealer delivery charges, a registration transfer fee (for used cars) and luxury car tax.
  • Make sure you understand a contract before you sign it.
  • Take out at least third party and preferably comprehensive car insurance.
  • Look for the best deal on car finance. RACV offers car loans from 6.49% (comparison rate 7.03%) — members can save from 5-20% off interest rates.
  • Did you know that RACV car loans don’t have monthly fees?
  • Call 13 15 60 for an obligation-free comparison or visit an RACV Retail Store.


man in grey shirt being handed car keys in car dealership

Be sure to take the time and assess your options before making a purchase.

How safe is the vehicle?


  • Safety is often overlooked, particularly when buying an older vehicle.
  • Used Car Safety Ratings help you find the safest second-hand car for your budget. Consider also how an older car drives. Will you be happy to drive a vehicle that's less connected to your devices or which doesn't have a reversing camera?  
  • There are 5-star ANCAP safety-rated cars available for every taste and budget.
  • The ANCAP rating will give you valuable information about the safety of new cars.

What are the car running costs?


  • View the RACV guide to car running costs. Use it to work out vehicle operating costs, vehicle depreciation, cents per kilometre, or even find out how you compare to the most economical small car.
  • Insurance is typically cheaper for common models, along with servicing, tyres and spare parts.
  • Consider fuel efficiency as a significant contributor to the cost of running a car.
  • Think about regular car servicing costs.

What are your vehicle re-sale prospects?


  • Maintain your vehicle in good condition to maximise its for sale price.
  • Keep up with regular servicing and use your vehicle logbook.
  • Consider neutral-coloured cars over bright ones, as they are easier to resell.