Buying a Used Car? 5 Tips to Avoid A Lemon

Vintage Red Car

We’ve bought 23 used cars over the past 26 years. Most of these were Datsuns in the early 90s and the majority were under $1000. We’re talking 20+ year old cars, loaded with history, service issues and rust. Back then, buying privately was a lot harder and sourcing them required road trips to the far corners of Sydney. These days all you have to do is jump online! However, despite ease in sourcing cars, something that has remained just as hard in the used-car purchase process, is knowing that you’re getting what you’ve payed for.

There’s no worse feeling than realising you’ve bought a lemon – you’ve been cheated, ripped off, maybe even openly lied to. Luckily, avoiding this scenario isn’t too difficult. We’ve put together 5 tips to follow to help lemon-proof your next purchase. Note, do these things before you buy!



Do your background check before you even inspect the car. This way, if something dodgy is revealed you can discuss it with the owner beforehand and decide whether it’s still worth viewing. The best comprehensive car history check on the market is It’s only $37 and you’ll receive a full background check including:

– If the car has been stolen or reported in an accident

– Market value

– Any current finance

– Potential odometer rollbacks

– Current and valid registration

– Price/ Kilometre comparison against similar cars in the market

The revs report is also valid if you’re purchasing from a used car sales yard. The reputable ones have done all the checks and will be able to provide you a copy during the inspection, so ask before you visit what checks they can show you. If you’re not satisfied they have enough information, then it’s worth the $37 to get all the possible background information and save yourself potential headaches down the track.



Book an inspection on a clear day, dark or wet conditions are misleading and make it easier to miss problems with the car.



Four eyes are better than two and there’s also more power and safety in numbers. This is especially true for private sales, women and younger car buyers. At the risk of playing on stereotypes, if you can, take an older male who preferably knows something about cars to give you at least an even negotiating position.



OK, so you’ve done your background research and know what you’re willing to pay. But how do you know that the car is mechanically sound?

This is where you need to book a vehicle inspection. It will cost you $200- $300 for a qualified mechanic to inspect the car prior to purchase but it could save you thousands in the long run. At Blue Toro, we can usually arrange a mobile vehicle inspection within 24-48 hours.


Your REVS check will reveal whether there is finance/ debt on the car. If there is, handing over all your cash to a private seller is risky – don’t do it. Instead, follow these steps to make sure you’re protected:

1. Ask the seller to show you a payout figure in writing from the financier.

2. Keep a copy of your REVS check with the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) certificate. The PPSR is an Australian government registry that holds information on all vehicle finance. This will protect you from repossession due to financial interests that have not been registered with PPSR.

3. Never pay the total amount to the seller as you have no way of guaranteeing that they’ll pay out the finance. Instead, make two separate payments. One direct to the financier for the total payout figure, the other being the outstanding balance to the seller.

4. Ask both the financier and the seller for a receipt. Make sure these are made out in your name. Also request a copy of the letter of discharge from the financier made out in your name, confirming that they no longer have interest in the vehicle. Keep this letter and your receipts with your PPSR certificate.

Just because it’s easier than ever to find a car online, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to dodge a lemon! Follow these steps, invest in a $37 background report and spend the $200-$300 to have a professional mechanic inspect your potential buy. They might seem like expenses at the time, but trust me, they could save you thousands in the long run. Enjoy your lemon-free used-car shopping!

About the author

Janelle Gonzalez is the owner of Blue Toro, Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise, one of the fastest growing automotive repair businesses in the country. She is an advocate for the hard-working mechanics who want an ethical and profitable way to better support their families. Her mission is to disrupt the automotive repair industry by exposing the rip-offs and returning to old-fashioned service values that car owners want.

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