There’s a simple reason why anyone would consider getting a used car over a new one; they are significantly cheaper. Shopping for a new car isn’t easy, it's stressful and time-consuming. For most people, it’s a lifetime investment; therefore, we are always looking to get the best deal possible.
Getting your first car is a smart financial move. However, impulse buying a car could mean ending up with a lemon. And while getting a car from a private seller might seem safer, it's vital to arm yourself with the knowledge and resources that won’t leave you with a vehicle that will be the source of financial problems. Here are ten things you need to know before buying a car from a private seller.
10 Do a little research
It doesn’t matter if you are getting a vehicle from a private owner or dealer, before you run a search on local classifieds, do personal research of used cars and their prices. Based on the research, you will be in a better position to know which vehicle bests suits you and how much you need to pay for it.
Going into the used vehicle market without a specific car in mind will get you a raw deal. For starters, find why you need a vehicle, how many people it will serve, and what features you don’t need.
9 Check Vehicle History
You can run a Carfax report to get you comprehensive information about the car you are looking to buy. Running a report will let you know if the vehicle has previously been in an accident or might have some worrisome issues in its past. If you are getting a car from a dealership, they will do it for you, but since you are getting it from a private owner, you will need to check this information on your own.
Checking for the vehicle history isn’t something you want to leave out. Depending on the report’s outcome, you can negotiate for a better deal or decide to get a different car altogether.
8 Do a Test Drive
It's perhaps the most important thing you need to do before you buy an automobile. Trying to negotiate for a better deal or running a history report will be worthless if the vehicle in question does not run. Doing a test drive will give you a chance to verify that the vehicle drives, and is in good condition.
Apart from the details you get from running a report, a test drive lets you test the vehicle’s performance on the highway, up and downhill. Based on the test drive, you can decide whether or not you are willing to own the car.
7 Get the vehicle Inspected
Before you write a check and fill in the ownership transfer details, have a trusted, qualified mechanic check the vehicle for you. Doing a test drive alone is not enough to judge the quality, efficiency, or condition of the vehicle.
A professional mechanic will run a comprehensive check-up on the vehicle, and even give you a detailed report on what components might need replacing in the future. It doesn’t matter how good the car sounds on paper. A mechanic should be able to verify its current condition.
6 Be prepared to Walk Away
A common mistake most of first-time vehicle buyers is to hurry the purchase process. Being too eager to finalize the sale can force you into a position where you are compelled to accept an offer you are not entirely comfortable with.
Rushing through a sale could also lead you into missing crucial checks that may lead to problems down the road. It doesn’t matter how good the deal sounds, always be prepared to look around for other options so that you don’t feel pressured buying a car that doesn’t suit you.
5 Stick to your Budget
One of the benefits of buying a vehicle from a private seller is, you can negotiate a price within your budget. Compared to a dealer, a private seller doesn’t need to make a profit since they are not affected by sales margins.
However, don’t let a pushy seller force you to enlarge your budget; make sure you are buying the vehicle at a price you are comfortable. When negotiating, be firm with your spending range, and don’t let them know your budget range until they have made an offer. Doing this gives you negotiating power.
4 Ask for the Vehicle’s Service Record and Title
One of the first signs that a vehicle has been well taken care of is if it has an up to date service history. Unless you are getting a vehicle from a family member or a close relative, don’t purchase without these documents. These records will give you a good sense of how well the vehicle has been taken care of (or not).
In case a private seller doesn’t have any service documentation, it's not safe to buy that particular vehicle. Depending on the records, don’t purchase any vehicle that has been in a serious accident on gone through complex repairs such as a transmission rebuild or engine overhaul.
3 Ask the owner about the car when you meet
It's important to get the finer details of why the owner of the vehicle is looking to sell the car in question. Find out who drove the car, what they like or hate about the car. You will be surprised at some of the responses you get out of this simple question. Most vehicle owners are willing to give out as much information about the car if you show a little interest.
Depending on what you hear, you will be in a better position to know how to care for it once you sign the papers. Based on their experience, a private owner will let you in on what products work best with the car in question, auto service discount centers, among other things. Sometimes the seller will mention something about the car that might make you change your mind.
2 Find out if the vehicle warranty is transferable
Most used cars in the US are only a few years old, and if you are lucky enough, you could easily get a car with extremely low mileage that could still be covered by a warranty.
Based on the information you get, you can still transfer the warranty to your name. Having the vehicle’s warranty transferred only works to your benefit. You will be able to enjoy discount services, and certain repairs will be catered for by the manufacturer.
1 Find out if the vehicle has been recalled
Before you settle for a vehicle, it’s important to check in with the National Highway and Traffic Administration’s database to find out if the vehicle is on the list of recalls. In case the vehicle is listed, follow up with the owner to find out if indeed the issue was resolved.
Don’t purchase the vehicle until you have clarified this information with the seller and authorities involved. According to a study conducted by Carfax, more than 3.5 million vehicles sold in 2013 that were listed with recalls still have unresolved issues.