Saving Money on a Used Vehicle by Buying from a Private Seller

A vehicle is probably one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. Buying from a private seller can save you money, but it can also open you up to getting a bad deal. Knowing what to keep in mind when purchasing from a private seller can save you a lot of money and frustration.

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Things to Consider When Buying from a Private Seller

The Benefits of Buying from a Private Seller:

  • No dealer fees
  • No up-selling
  • More likely to close the deal quickly
Buying A Used Car From A Private Seller

The Drawbacks of Buying from a Private Seller:

  • No warranties
  • Obtaining proper documentation is your responsibility
  • Unlike a dealership, the seller does not have a reputation to protect

Tips for Buying a Car

Get the title. If the seller does not have the title in their hand, there’s no way to be sure that they own the car. There would also be no way to prove that you own the car after you purchase it. If they have lost the title, they can request a duplicate. Make sure the title is signed by everyone whose name is on it. If the seller cannot produce the title, do not buy the car.

Check the VIN. Checking the VIN can give you a lot of information about the vehicle, including its maintenance history, whether it has ever been in an accident, if its airbags have ever deployed and its “lemon” status.

Ask questions. Before money changes hands, find out why the seller is selling the car, what issues they have experienced with it and what parts are not original to the car. Ideally, the seller would also be able to show you service records.

Go for a test drive. If you do not know the seller, ask to see a photo ID, take a picture of the ID and send it to a friend for safety reasons. As you drive the car, verify that the windshield wipers, power brakes, power steering, signals, lights, locks and cruise control work as they should.

Get a pre-purchase inspection. Have a trusted mechanic (that you – not the seller – chooses) look over the vehicle. If the mechanic says the car is in good shape, consider buying it. If it is not, use that as leverage to lower the purchase price. If the seller objects to having a mechanic look over the car, then you may want to find another vehicle.

Protect yourself from fraud. Look at the car’s mileage and consider whether the level of wear is consistent with what you would expect. If the car’s mileage is low but you notice a lot of wear on the steering wheel, upholstery and gas and brake pedals, the seller may have illegally manipulated the odometer.

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