Back to Course

English Conversations

0% Complete
0/24 Steps
  1. Catching Snakes to Earn a Crust with Stuart Mckenzie
  2. Scottish Accents, Favourite Movies, & More with Christian Saunders
  3. Rev Heads, Car Accidents, & Car Culture in Australia with James Buchan
  4. On Celebrating Australia Day & Changing The Date with Ian Smissen
  5. How to Buy a Car in Australia with James Buchan
  6. Moving to France & Starting a Podcast with Oliver Gee
  7. Crocodiles & Muppet Pollies with Damian Duffy
  8. Life Working as a Brickie in Australia with Rhys Linett
    1 Topic
  9. Hipster Coffee, Craft Beers, & the Holden-Ford Rivalry in Australia with James Buchan
  10. Bird & Bush Photography in Australia with Ian Smissen
  11. How to Sell a Car in Australia with James Buchan
  12. Becoming a Karate World Champion with Rhys Linnett
  13. Australian vs French Culture with Cara Leopold
  14. 6 Big English-Learning Mistakes with Christian Saunders
  15. Christmas in Australia with Raquel Soares
  16. A Brazilian Bloke Born in an Aussie Body with Hugo Groom
    1 Topic
  17. Australian Politics with Ian Smissen
    5 Topics
Lesson 5 of 17
In Progress

How to Buy a Car in Australia with James Buchan

Peter Smissen February 6, 2018

In this Interview In Depth lesson, we’re going to study a portion of the AE 401 interview with James Buchan on how to buy a car in Australia.

Read and listen to the full interview here.

How to complete this lesson:

  1. Listen & read
  2. Complete the quizzes

AE 401 – Interview: How to Buy a Car in Australia with James Buchan

Difficulty: Beginner

I guess, switching gears again.


If we now talk about purchasing cars and selling cars, do you remember the first car that you went and bought, and what it felt like to be, you know, a young Australian kid getting your first car? What was the process like too?

So, the first car I think I actually bought with my own money was a Toyota Soarer. It was a one of the V8 ones, so, they called that a UZZ31. This is an interesting one and I think this will be good for the podcast, because I made some mistakes buying this car, and hindsight and wisdom I would be able to inform a purchaser now a lot better, but I guess, you’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to make mistakes. Much the same as anything in life, you’ve got to learn. That crash, for instance, that we talked about earlier. Sometimes you need to make a mistake.

So, I went and saw the car, and everything looked alright, I guess, when you’re young and you’ve got a pocket full of cash and you see an object, you think well, yeah, you know, it’s it looks good, and I guess, you get carried away with the emotions in purchasing it. You know, I’m going to buy this. This is going to be me. I get to roll around in this. This is really cool. In my case, it was this V8 Soarer. It was packed full of leather and technology. It had like the TV screen, the touch screen. It had a really good stereo in it. (It) had a set of wheels on it. They were really heavy and they weren’t staggered, but they were a set of wheels, and to a young person that was pretty cool.

So, we went up and we just sussed it out, and it was a really warm sunny day, and everything was working. The air conditioning was working. The car was driving nicely. The owner had informed me that he just put a new battery in it, and I didn’t really think of… I just thought, well, you know, that’s a good thing, you know, a new battery. And I said, yeah, no, I’ll buy this car. And I think I paid $7,300 for it. And we had the paperwork. So, we got that from Vic Roads. So, you sign the paperwork, and then… so the owner of the car will put his initials on it, you put yours on it, and that basically transfers the ownership from their name to yours, which you would then take to VicRoads.

So, I purchased this car, and I remember, it took maybe about a week. So, I had a test drive first, came home, decided that I liked it. And then, (I) came up to Melbourne about a week or two later to pick up the car, and that was fine, and I drove it back out of Melbourne, and on the way down to Geelong I got a little message on the TV screen in the centre of the car, and it said an alternator… battery not charging alternator, alternator not charging battery. Like, okay, what’s that? Anyway, the closer I got to Geelong, the more systems started to shut down in the car. I’m thinking, well, this is not great.

Anyway, as it turns out, the design of that particular engine the 1UZ had the alternator above… had the power steering pump just above the alternator. So, what would happen is the power steering pump would leak and drop all its fluid onto the alternator, which would kill it. And so, when the alternator wouldn’t charge then it would just drain the battery. So, when the owner said I’ve just put in a new battery of course the car is going to drive fine with a new battery. You’re not going to know. So, perhaps I should have checked under the car for any, I guess, like puddles or any drips, look at the engine bay perhaps with a torch to see if there’s any moist damp wet spots. I didn’t do any of that. I just got carried away, because I thought that everything was working and playing with the buttons and the technology, didn’t really… didn’t really check to see what else might be broken with it. So, that was… so, on the second day that I had the car in my ownership. I then had to take it down to an auto-electrician and get the power steering pump replaced, and get the alternator replaced. And that was a really expensive exercise. That was at least $600-700. And I hadn’t budgeted for that. So, I regret that.

There’s a few things in that I unpack, I guess. So, for the listeners who are moving to Australia or currently living in Australia what kind of advice would you have for them from start to finish for purchasing a car? So, I guess starting with: where do you look and what do you look for?

So, there’s perhaps two main websites you could look for cars in Australia., which is generally pretty good. Look, if you want to go to a dealer, you can, but you have to be prepared to pay their markups. They‘ll be making a profit on it. Although, if you buy from a dealer, you’ll get some kind of warranty or recourse if something is to go wrong. So, buying a car secondhand inherently carries a little bit more risk if you do it through a private sale.

So,, though.

That’s right. Yeah. So, that’s where generally that I would look. You’ll see if a car has… you can check out its specifications, its photos, there’s the owner’s contact information. And that’s one way of buying a car. It’s slightly perhaps a little bit more above board. And then, if you wanted to buy like a slightly cheaper car or you‘re willing to sift a little bit… sift a little further through the website, you could use I don’t think their searching or the way that the website is built is perhaps as good as Carsales, but you can find a car through there, and they can be another option.

And what would you recommend the car come with, or the kind of specifications, I mean, any other bonus sort of tips there for the kinds of cars you want and what you want to come with when you purchase one?

So, the first and foremost, really, you need a registration and roadworthy certificate. Roadworthy certificates, they’ve become a lot harder to find.

And harder to get.

And harder to get. A car these days, generally, if it comes with a roadworthy certificate, it generally means that it’s an alright car. You know, you’d need to get it checked out, obviously, and perform your own checks, but you can be assured at least that it’s been to a workshop and that they can guarantee that the tyres are good, the brakes are good, the steering is good, that you’ve got good wiper blades, there’s no oil leaks, just that basic kind of stuff. In the past, they were a lot easier to forge, but the Victorian Government has since been clamping down pretty hard on workshops that are handing out dodgy roadworthiness. So, they are a lot harder to find and get. And as a result, you’ll see a lot of cars for sale second hand without a roadworthy certificate.


And look, some of these cars can be an absolute bargain. If you’re willing to do the work, and let’s say, it might only need a set of tyres or set of brake pads. I guess, if you’ve got A. the time, or you’re B. mechanically competent, go ahead, do that, but you really have to suss the car out and to know that it’s going to be okay, and then you’ve got to have the time as well to run around getting these things or to get them fitted, and how much is your time worth? Are you working? Are you studying? If you are, then you might not have the time to be able to go ahead and do these things, in which case you could pay a place to do this, but again, that’s going to cost a little bit of extra, and for all of the extra that it may cost you or for how much your time is worth, it just makes sense to get a car with a roadworthy certificate.

And you can kind of get caught in a bit of a trap, right? If you get on without a roadworthy, you’ve got about 30 days with the changeover in your name to get a roadworthy on it before it can be changed into your name. And so, however much money it’s going to cost to change the car, to fix the car, to repair the car, to get it into your name, you’re going to have to fork out


…and pay for before you can legally drive it around or get insured and all of that, right?

That’s right. So, a couple of years ago now my brother and I bought a Ford Falcon it was an AU, and it was ex-taxi, the benefit of an ex-taxi is that you know that it‘s been maintained. This thing had 700,000 kilometers on it.

To the moon and back.

My brother and I, we were looking for a car. We needed one kind of quickly. We sussed out one car and the owner said to us, “oh, look, it’s good, it’s got an exhaust on it”. We liked the look of it, but he said the gearbox is broken, one of the gears is broken in it. The car can’t do above 80 kilometers an hour. And I guess, when you’re travelling to the Outback and you’re travelling large distances, Australia’s a big country, you kind of want to be able to go a little bit more than 80km/hr. So, for us, that was a no go.

So, we went and sussed out this AU Falcon in Templestowe. It was an ex-taxi, it was owned… it had been owned by this Greek guy, and my brother just looks at me and he says, do we go ugly early, James?. And I said yes, David we do, because you know what? We could spend a long time trying to suss out which cars are good, you know, sorting out if one has a roadworthy or a rego or does it… or if it’s maybe one of the later versions. But everything about this, I guess, it ticked most of the boxes for us. So, we decided that that was going to be a good buy.

That car had no roadworthy, but for our purposes we were only using the car for a weekend. We had it sort of like a little cheap car holiday.


So, we went up to the Outback in New South Wales. So, what we did was we purchased this AU. It didn’t need to have a roadworthy, because we were able to… we’re only going to be using it for a weekend. So, we were able to transfer the ownership of the vehicle into our name and we were able to get an insurance cover note that would cover us for those four days. At which point, once we returned, we would cancel the cover note, we’d sell the car.


And that’s exactly what we did. However, if you want to keep a car to use to go on holidays, to go on trips, you have 30 days, at least last time I checked, before you can get that… 30 days in order to get that roadworthy certificate, and get that into your name, and get the car registered and insured, and off you go.


ST = something

SW = somewhere

SO = someone

…and all of that – used to say “and everything else related to what I’m listing” so the speaker can avoid listing it

  • I went shopping to get new shorts, underwear, socks, and all of that.

A brake pad – the pads placed inside car brakes that absorb friction from the wheels and slow the car

  • The car has 4 brake pads.

A cover note – an insurance note or form that covers/insures the car

  • I had to get a cover note whilst I transferred the new car into my name.

A gearbox – a set of gears with its casing, especially in a motor vehicle; the transmission

  • All cars have a gearbox.

A good buy – ST that was worth buying whether for a good price or for a good reason

  • This car was cheap for what it includes so it’s a good buy!

A markup – the amount added to the cost price of goods to cover overheads and profit

  • The car salesman put a huge markup on the car.

A pocket full of cash – a metaphor for: having a lot of money

  • It was fun being young with a pocket full of cash.

A private sale – the sale of ST privately as opposed to through a business

  • I’d rather buy a car via a private sale.

A puddle – a small pool of water

  • After it rained there were puddles everywhere.

A registration – a certificate that attests to the registering of a car

  • I had to get a registration for my new car.

A rego – a registration

  • Did you get a rego for your car?

A roadworthy certificate (RWC) – a certificate given by a register mechanic to say that a vehicle is safe to be driven on the road

  • Does the car come with a roadworthy certificate?

A specification – a standard of workmanship or materials required to be met in an object

  • I like the specifications of this car.

A stereo – the thing that plays music or the radio in a car

  • Everyone enjoys a car with a good stereo.

A torch – a flashlight

  • Can you hand me that torch?

A touch screen – a computer screen that can be used by touching it, as opposed to using buttons

  • My fridge has a touch screen on it.

A tyre – the rubber cover of a wheel

  • I need to get some new tyres on my car.

A V8 – an engine with 8 cylinders arranged in a V shape with 4 either side

  • Does this car have a V8 engine?

A warranty – a written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of ST by its manufacturer or seller, promising to repair or replace it if ST goes wrong within a given period of time

  • If I get a car from a dealer it’ll come with a warranty.

A wiper blade – the rubber blade that wipes water off a vehicle’s front or rear windows

  • The wiper blades on my car have worn down and need to be replaced.

A workshop – any kind of building where repairs or building is done, but in this case, a mechanic’s shop where vehicles are repaired

  • I’ll take the car to a workshop to get repaired this week.

Above board – legitimate, honest, and open

  • Everything looks above board with the car so I’ll buy it.

An absolute bargain – a very good deal

  • This ute was an absolute bargain!

An alternator – a dynamo that generates an alternating current

  • The alternator‘s busted in my car.

An auto-electrician – an electrician who works on vehicles (automobiles)

  • Seeing as the alternator’s busted, I’ll have to take it to an auto-electrician to repair it.

An engine bay – the area in a car where the engine is placed

  • We opened the bonnet up to look into the engine bay of the car.

An ex-taxi – a car that was previous a taxi

  • This yellow car is an ex-taxi.

An exhaust – the metal tubes through which the waste gases and air from an engine is expelled

  • Do you want to get a new exhaust on your ute?

An oil leak – a leak where oil has come out of an engine

  • I can tell by the puddle of oil below the car that it’s got an oil leak.

As it turns out – used for saying what the situation really is when ST different might have happened

  • As it turns out, this car was an absolute bargain!

Be willing to sift a little bit – be willing to search through many things (i.e. sift) in order to find ST good

  • If you want to find a good guy on Tinder you have to be willing to sift a little bit.

Brakes – a device for slowing or stopping a moving vehicle, typically by applying pressure to the wheels

  • The car’s brakes need to be replaced.

Budget for ST – allow or provide a particular amount of money in a budget for ST

  • Did you budget for repairs and insurance with your new car?

Charge for ST – ask an amount of money for ST

  • How much do they want to charge you for the car?

Do we go ugly early? – Do we just buy this ugly, poor quality, thing now instead of spending much more time searching for ST better only to end up getting ST of similar ugliness or poor quality?

  • We didn’t want to waste time and so we went ugly early and just bought this car.

Dodgy – unreliable; unsafe; untrustworthy

  • That car dealership looks incredibly dodgy.

Drain (ST) – cause the liquid within ST to run out, leaving it empty or dry

  • The mechanic drained the oil out of the car.

Everything looked alright – everything seemed to be okay

  • We checked the car’s engine and everything looked alright.

Fitted – made or shaped to fill a space or to cover ST closely or exactly

  • This car has just had a new exhausted fitted on it.

Forge (ST) – produce a fraudulent or fake copy or imitation of (a document, signature, banknote, work of art, etc)

  • Someone seems to have forged this car’s roadworthy certificate.

Fork (ST) out for ST – pay an amount of money, especially unwillingly

  • How much did you fork out for that motorbike?

From their name to yours – from being legally registered to them to legally registered to you. If ST is “in your name” it is registered to you by you having signed a document with your name

  • I’m getting the bike registered from their name into mine.

Get carried away with ST – be so excited about ST that you can’t control what you do or say

  • Take your time when buying a car and don’t get carried away with excitement.

Get caught in a bit of a trap – get stuck in ST unpleasant by accident or because SO’s tricked you

  • If you don’t inspect a car properly you can get caught in a bit of a trap.

Get ST checked out – get ST examined or looked at

  • We took the car to get checked out at the workshop.

Go ahead – used to encourage SO to proceed with ST or do ST

  • Go ahead and take my car for a drive.

Guarantee (ST) – provide a formal assurance, especially that certain conditions will be fulfilled relating to a product, service, or transaction, etc.

  • Can you guarantee this car won’t break down in the next week?

Hand ST out – give ST

  • They hand out the forms for car registration at Vic Roads.

SO has since been clamping down pretty hard on ST – SO has since been suppressing or preventing ST in an oppressive or hash manner

  • The police have since been clamping down on crime pretty hard.

Hindsight – understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed

  • In hindsight, buying this was probably a bad idea.

Inherently – in a permanent, essential, or characteristic way

  • I’ve heard that European cars are inherently hard to repair.

Initials – the first letters of your first, middle, and/or last names

  • Put your initials here at the bottom of this document.

It ticked most of the boxes for us – it satisfied most of our requirements – he’s using ticking off boxes next to these listed requirements as a metaphor

  • This car ticks most of the boxes for us so we’ll buy it.

Leak (ST) – (of a container or covering) accidentally lose or admit contents, especially liquid or gas, through a hole or crack

  • Something‘s leaking underneath the car.

Look (for ST) – Search (for ST)

  • What are you looking for?

Maintain (ST) – keep (ST) in good condition

  • He‘s maintained this car in great condition.

Make a profit on ST – Earn extra money on ST when selling it at a higher price than you bought it

  • Did you make much of a profit on the sale?

Mechanically competent – having the necessary mechanical ability, knowledge, or skill to do ST successfully

  • My father has always been very mechanically competent.

Much the same as anything in life – just like any condition in life

  • Buying cars from strangers comes with a degree of uncertainty, much the same as anything in life.

Off you go – used to mean you can now leave and move on to do what you want

  • Once you buy the car and register it into your name, off you go!

Packed full of ST – completely filled with ST

  • The car was packed full of people.

Pick ST up – retrieve ST

  • Where did you pick the car up from?

Purchase ST – buy ST

  • Do you think you‘ll purchase the car?

Recourse – the legal right to demand compensation or payment

  • If something breaks and you don’t have a warranty, you’ll have no recourse.

Regret ST – feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (ST that you’ve done or failed to do)

  • I never regretted buying this bike.

Replace ST – provide a substitute for (ST that is broken, old, or inoperative)

  • I need to replace the engine in my car.

Roll around in ST – drive around in ST – ‘roll’ because the wheels on the car roll around and around as it’s driven

  • We love rolling around in our new car.

Staggered – not perfectly aligned

  • The wheels on all drag cars are staggered.

Steering – the mechanism in a vehicle, which makes it possible to steer it in different directions

  • The steering in this car is so smooth.

Suss ST out – learn more about ST; check ST out

  • Are you going to suss that car out this weekend?

Switching gears – a metaphor for changing gears in a car – changing topic in a discussion

  • Alright, switching gears, what are you doing this weekend?

That was a no go – that was impossible, hopeless, forbidden, or a bad idea

  • Buying that run down old car was a no go.

The changeover – a change from one situation to another – i.e. a car changing over from one owner to another owner

  • The changeover went really smoothly.

The more systems started to shut down – the more mechanical components in the car started to stop functioning

  • The astronaut looked at his computer as all the systems started to shut down.

The power steering pump – a hydraulic pump system in a car to make steering easier

  • My car has a brand new power steering pump in it.

Wisdom – the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise

  • He has a lot of wisdom.

You’ve got to go out there – you have to leave your home or where you’re comfort and go explore

  • Sometimes you just have to go out there and do the searching yourself.