When's the best time to buy a used car?

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate


Have you been stung in the past when buying a used car? It's OK to admit it - it's the sort of thing that can happen to anyone. Apart from buying a lemon, one of the worst things that can happen to any enterprising car buyer is finally deciding on a vehicle you want and signing the paperwork, then seeing the price plummet one week later. 

After you finish tearing your hair out, you begin to wonder, are some months in the year really better to buy a used car? Or is it all in your head? Maybe you broke a wing mirror in your past (seven years bad luck, you know), but there's possibly a simpler explanation as to why used car prices fluctuate the way they do. 

All good under the hood 

Regardless of which season you buy, on the whole, we've been heading into good territory, economically speaking. According to a report by Time Magazine, we can expect used car prices to continue on their downwards trend for some time to come1

"In 2011, used vehicle prices hit a 16-year high," explains Time, referencing the end of the Global Financial Crisis. "Relatively few consumers were purchasing or leasing new cars because money was tight and credit was less available."

"That meant a shrinking supply of used cars, as there were fewer trade-ins or vehicles coming off lease."1

Seasonal pickings

One obvious time to plan your vehicle hunting is for the end of the financial year, which comes around every June 30. In the weeks leading up to this date, expect to see crazy deals on all matter of products, including cars.

A number of dealerships will look to entice you further by offering interest free options, complimentary servicing, you name it. Christmas is also peak time for seasonal deals. Dealerships will be wanting to clear out their old stock as much as possible before the new rolls in. 

In addition, Mojo Motors recommends looking to buy towards the end of the month - with salespeople usually looking to crunch a few extra numbers, you might have extra wiggle room when it comes to negotiating a deal2

Once thing's for sure, when it comes to choosing your future used vehicle, make sure you cover all your bases by getting a copy of a CarHistory report. Not only can you feel proud you've done your homework, you can help ensure that bargain you've had your eye on isn't too good to be true.

1Time Magazine, Used Car Prices Are Plummeting. Here's Why. Accessed June, 2015. 

​2Mojo Motors, Best and worst times to buy a car. Accessed June, 2015.

View a sample report >