How to Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller

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When you compare buying a used car from a dealership and buying from a private seller, the latter choice can yield a cheaper, easier, and faster process. However, you have to consider the risks involved.

If you want to buy a used car from a private seller and get the most out of your money, here are some things that you should know before you start your search.

Be extra critical

There is no guarantee that a used car from a private seller is genuinely in the shape that it is advertised to be. You most likely won’t get to find out the actual state of the car unless you take it to an auto mechanic. Hence, when you start looking for used cars around your area, remember to be extra critical about the car’s history, condition, price, and everything else in between.

Start wide then narrow down

Browse private seller websites and online marketplaces to see what type of cars are available in your area. Find a few vehicles that are within your price range for comparison. When you have a handful of choices, narrow them down further by examining the details of each one, and then eliminating the cars that don’t meet your expectations.

By starting your search wide, you can achieve a better understanding of the fair market value of different brands and models. In this way, you can come up with a reasonable asking price when you finally settle on a choice and figure out how to negotiate the price if needed.

Obtain the history report

Ask the seller for the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). Using this number, you can obtain the car’s full history report using various services. Vehicle history can include accident reports, repair information, damage reports, and other pertinent information about the car’s condition and history.

However, keep in mind that not every incident will show up on the car’s history report. That said, you have to dig deeper.

Ask for service records

Aside from the car’s official history report, it’s also a good idea to ask the seller for service records. If they have the service reports, it will give you insight into how well they have maintained the car so far. However, if they don’t have the service records, ask for other proof of maintenance.

Do not buy a car without a title

A title is a legal proof that you are the owner of the vehicle. If you buy a used car without the title, you are technically not its new owner.

If the private seller does not have the title due to loss or damage, ask them to apply for a replacement. If they don’t want to do it themselves or insist that you apply for the title yourself, don’t take the risk, even if the car’s price tag is a huge bargain.

Check for liens

Before buying a used car, it is also important to check the title if it has any liens on it. In that case, the liens would have to be paid off before the car’s title can be transferred to a new owner.

To check the title for liens, ask to see the title itself, or use the vehicle’s VIN and check with the local department of motor vehicles.

Interview the owner

To find out more about the car, consider asking them these questions:

  • Are you the original owner? If not, where did you get it from and what was the car’s condition when you bought it?
  • How long have you had the car?
  • Has the car been in an accident?
  • Has the car gone through any major repairs? If so, what type of repairs?
  • What is/are your reason/s for selling it?

Keep in mind that not all private sellers will be honest with you, so trust your gut. If what the seller is saying does not add up with the service or history reports, they might be being untruthful.

Take the car for a test drive

driving a car

Test driving the car can give you a feel for how well it runs, as well as let you know if there are is anything wrong with it. Look for obvious signs of damage, listen for weird sounds, and feel for any vibration on the wheel or pedals.

Go to a mechanic

Lastly, take the car to a mechanic to have it inspected for any potential issues. An inspection can alert you of both minor and major issues, as well as other details that are not included in the reports. Moreover, the mechanic can give you an estimate of how much it will take to repair or tune-up the car.

Buying a used car from a private seller is always a bit of a gamble. But if you want to save money, buying from a private seller is the best choice. Remember these crucial factors.

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