Buying a used car or bike

Before purchasing any used car or bike you should make sure the car or bike has a clear title. 

A clear title means:

  • The seller does not owe money to the bank for the car;
  • The person selling the vehicle actually owns it;
  • The vehicle hasn't ever been reported as being excessively damaged or stolen;
  • There are no liens attached to the vehicle;
  • That it can be sold/bought without any complications or approval from a third party.

The only way you would know if the car or bike was mortgaged is to visit the Registrar General's office. You can search in the book of mortgages to see whether the person purporting to be the owner had a mortgage on the vehicle.

When buying a used car or bike consider the depreciation value. For example, a used car, a reliable three year old model might be a good value because the steepest part of the depreciation curve has past, and many of the newer safety features can often be found on these vehicles.

Consider the cost verses the value - cars depreciate very quickly, so beware of older vehicles, especially those that are over 10 years old. The older the car is, the less reliable it is and it will undoubtedly have issues that will require repairs. If you are looking at buying an older car do your research and establish a true value of the car. 

Do your research about reliability, the cost of maintaining it and the licence fee just as if you were buying a new car. No matter how old the car, the licence fee will be based on the vehicle size. 

You must consider the insurance value for a used car or bike as well. Just because the vehicle is kept in good condition does not mean that the insured value will be the price you paid. Your insurance company can provide the current insurance value of a vehicle that you are interested in so that you can have a good idea of the fair market value.

  • Check the paperwork, service/maintenance records and mileage of the vehicle. The numbers on the engine and chassis should match those on the paperwork;
  • Check the quality of the paint work and interior trim.  Ensure the electrical switches and monitors are functioning. Check the tire treads, as excessive wear can result in a loss of traction, especially on wet and slippery roads.  Make sure the spare wheel and tire are in good condition;
  • Have a qualified mechanic do a thorough inspection of any vehicle you are seriously interested in prior to purchase. They may charge a fee but this is an important step to avoid being stuck with a vehicle that is in bad condition and requires costly repairs after.
  • Have a mechanic inspect the oil cap (which could indicate the need for a new head gasket), rubber hoses and belts for signs of wear and tear;
  • Test-drive the vehicle. Start the vehicle when the engine is cold.  Check that the engine is running smoothly and revs cleanly. The brakes should stop the car without pulling to the left or right and should not grind. The steering should be smooth and not rickety. Listen for any strange noises;
  • Check the bike frame by looking at it from the front.  If the frame is not in alignment it could be an indication of a previous accident.  The brakes on the bike should stop the bike smoothly and there should not be any screeching or grinding noise.

The Consumer Protection Act 1999 and the Sale of Goods Act 1978 (as amended 2002), have limited application to buying used cars, bikes or any used products. If you do buy from a seller who was dishonest about the reason for selling the product, you may be entitled to a refund, however compensation will have to be decided by Magistrates’ Court.

Find out more information on selling your car.