Ready to buy your first car?

Buying your first car is a big deal, and probably the biggest purchase you've ever made. So you want to make sure you get it right. Here are a few tips to keep you on track.

Finding the right car for you

There are so many things to think about when you’re buying a car – the price, type, size, colour, economy, age and the safety of a car are all important. So it’s best to plan ahead. 

To make sure you end up with the right car, here are a few important questions to ask yourself: 
  • How will you use your car? 
  • Do you want an automatic or a manual? Does your licence allow you to drive a manual?
  • What’s your budget? Make sure you think about annual car insurance premiums and car running costs.
  • Will you need to take out a car loan?
  • Have you done your research? Once you’ve selected a car, do the relevant car buying checks to make sure it’s in good mechanical order and that there’s no money owing. A Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR) car history check can help you with that. If you are buying privately, there is no way to ensure the car isn't stolen. However, dealers must guarantee clear title, so this might be a safer way to go.

Deciding on the perfect car for you can be tricky, if you are having trouble choosing, use the RACQ Car Comparisons tool to find a car that will be perfect for you. Once you have decided on the car for you the RACQ Car Price Guide will help you negotiate a fair price.

Signing the contract

It’s important you understand what you’re getting into when you sign a contract. Here are some tips from the RACQ Motoring Advisory Service:
  • When you pay a deposit or sign a contract, or even an order form for a car, a contract is formed, which means that you may be legally bound to buy the car.
  • A ‘cooling off’ period of one business day applies when you buy a used car from a dealership in Queensland. This gives you time to change your mind.
  • If you decide you don’t want to proceed, you must notify the dealer in writing during the cooling off period, provided you haven't taken delivery of the car.
  • Never sign an incomplete contract or any document until you know the total cost it binds you to pay. And make sure you always get a copy of any contract or document you sign.
Here are some things to look out for in contracts:
  • Don’t sign any document to purchase a car that is ‘subject to finance being arranged’. If you do sign and then find out you can’t arrange the finance of your choice, you could be pressured into accepting finance from the dealer at a much higher interest rate. Try to arrange your finance before you go shopping that way you will know how much you can spend. If you can't arrange finance beforehand, any contract you sign should be 'subject to the buyer obtaining sufficient finance from (insert the name of your financing company) to complete this purchase'.
  • Never pay a deposit, or sign an order form or purchase agreement that states ‘subject to RACQ inspection’. Regardless of the outcome of the RACQ inspection, the dealer could hold you to the agreement to purchase the car. The only form of wording you should accept is ‘subject to the purchaser obtaining and being satisfied with an independent inspection of the vehicle.’ Check out RACQ vehicle inspections for peace of mind.
  • Don’t sign on the promise to repair faults.

Paying a deposit

You’ve finally found the car you want. The dealer has asked you to pay a deposit while you’re thinking about it or waiting to have the car inspected. They may even want a deposit to hold the car during the ‘cooling off’ period.
  • When you decide to pay a deposit, pay the minimum amount the dealer will accept. 
  • If you decide not to go ahead with the purchase during the cooling off period, the dealer is legally bound to refund your deposit, but may retain up to $100.