Is it better to buy a used car through auction, privately or a dealership?

Car dealership in Sydney

Three enter. Only one may win.

It seems like everyone has their preferences when it comes to buying a used car. Your dad swears by the dealer down the road who's ‘never steered him wrong before’ whereas your best mate reckons an auction is the way to go because he likes the idea of bidding. However, your mum has found a car online that ticks all of the boxes. You’ve definitely got a lot of options.

It can get a bit overwhelming. Luckily, the pros and cons can easily be summed up in the following tables.

Buying your used car through a dealership

Advantages Disadvantages
Provide a range of used vehicles to choose from Generally, you pay more at a dealership, though you will get a statutory used car warranty
Easier to dispose of your vehicle A trade-in will probably not achieve the best price for your old car 
Licence dealers guarantee title of the vehicle  
Warranty in NSW on cars under 10 years or 160,000kms and below the Luxury Tax Threshold in NSW  


Find out more about the advantages of buying through a dealership.

Buying your used car privately

Choosing to buy privately usually means you will get a better deal compared with shopping at a dealership and you may also get an idea of the car’s history directly from the owner. Even if you get the car’s log books, make sure you check NRMA’s Car History report online.

Advantages Disadvantages
Might be cheaper No warranty
You might get to meet the previous owner and obtain the vehicle's history Any faults found on the vehicle are not covered by Fair Trading


Find out more about the advantages of buying privately.

Buying your used car at an auction

You may save money at an auction, but you must do your homework. Set a price and don't go over it. Ex-government and fleet cars are often good value and have usually been regularly maintained but they might not have been driven as carefully as privately owned cars.

Find out more about the advantages of buying at an auction.

Advantages Disadvantages
May be cheaper May not have any warranty
Guarantee of title Can't test drive
Various makes and models in one location Usually you're required to pay a deposit of 10% or $500
May carry out an independent vehicle inspection the day prior to the auction May not be able to have the car inspected on the day of the auction
If there's low competition, you may be able to buy the car for close to reserve price Can get carried away and pay a higher price during the bidding process


Click for more information about buying privately, in an auction or through a dealership.

Take the guesswork out of buying a used car

An NRMA mobile vehicle inspection is a comprehensive inspection detailing the current state of the vehicle