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Media post: How to Buy a Used Car From a Private Seller

Are you on the hunt for a budget-friendly set of wheels? Well, buying one second-hand from a private seller is probably your best bet. Indeed, a staggering 40 million used vehicles are sold every year in the US, so there’s clearly enough to go around!

Don’t let those statistics fool you though. As common as it is to purchase pre-loved privately-owned cars, the process is full of potential pitfalls when you don’t know what you’re doing. To avoid expensive mistakes and get the best bang for your buck, you have to know where to look, who to trust, and how to pick the right car for your needs.

Would you like some help with the endeavor? Check out these pro tips, tricks, and strategies on how to buy a car from a private seller.

Establish Your Budget

The first step to buying a car from a private seller is to establish how much money you can afford to spend. Working out your budget ahead of time serves two purposes:

First, you’ll hone the search, making it easier to find an appropriate car amongst the mass of options out there. Second, you’ll be less likely to purchase a vehicle you can’t afford. To put it another way, setting yourself a budget will save you from any unnecessary stress both now and in the future!

Research What You Want

This step works hand in hand with the last. After all, you’ll find it much easier to establish a realistic budget when you know how much the kinds of cars you like actually cost. With that in mind, start doing some research into the car makes and models you might like.

Car magazines, internet forums, blogs, YouTube videos, and speaking to friends and family could all be useful resources. Do some digging, see what’s available, assess what seems viable, and use whatever you find to inform your budgeting considerations.

Access Financing

Deciding how to pay for a used car from a private seller is another piece of the puzzle. If you’re paying the private party seller in cash, then feel free to skip ahead to the coming steps. This particular point’s for anybody who’ll be taking out an auto-loan…

At this point you’ll have an idea of a) the car(s) that take your fancy and b) how much they’d cost. You can then take these insights and speak to your bank/lender to organize the financing. This might seem pre-emptive, but doing it in advance means you can make an instant offer whenever you find the perfect vehicle for your needs.

Identify Your Options

Now the money’s sorted, it’s time for the real car search to begin. Start going through online listings, car ads in your local paper, and looking for referrals from your loved ones. The goal?

To create a shortlist of used cars for sale that tick the right boxes. Knowing what to check when buying a used car from a private seller is key. Pay close attention to the vehicle descriptions (especially any details of mechanical and cosmetic issues), their age, the miles on the clock, and how much they cost.

Likewise, it might be worth limiting your search to convenient locations that’d be easy for you to reach.

Contact the Sellers

Next up, try to contact the seller by phone, email, or direct message as soon as you find a vehicle that looks good. Your goal is threefold: to express interest, seek answers to any questions you might have about the car (including why they’re selling the car!), and arrange a viewing (assuming everything’s to your satisfaction).

Top tip: be wary of sellers who seem untrustworthy, evasive, or somehow shifty. Buying used cars from owner tends to do work best when they’re responsive, gracious, and open to your inquiries.

Do a Thorough Test Drive

One of the final steps involved is to attend the viewings, inspect the car, and do a test drive. As far as the inspection goes, be vigilant for signs of wear and tear- including rust, dents, and replacement parts. Make sure you do a thorough test drive too; check the brakes, acceleration, and handling, and be alert for possible problems at every turn.

Ask to see the documentation (the title, bill of sale, and emissions documents) while you’re there. The title is super important because it proves a) that the private seller legally owns the vehicle and b) the car is in the condition it claims to be (aka it hasn’t been salvaged or rebuilt). If they can’t show the title, then we strongly suggest you look elsewhere.

Conduct a VIN Check

Let’s imagine that you’ve test-driven the car and are happy with the way it looks, feels, and drives. It might be tempting to make an offer there and then! However, you should always take the time to do a VIN check first.

Obtaining a vehicle history report will reveal a host of invaluable information about the car (including the owner history, title issues, and whether it’s suffered prior accidents or flood damage). In other words, you’ll discover whether or not there are any skeletons hiding in the car’s proverbial closet!

Want to make doubly sure you wouldn’t be buying a lemon? Consider asking a mechanic to check it over before you hand over any cash. If the seller’s honest and not trying to hide anything, then they shouldn’t have a problem with you taking this tack.

Make an Offer

Last but not least in this expose of how to buy a used car from a private party, it’s time to decide whether or not to make an offer. Think about your budget, the experience with the seller, and how you feel about the vehicle. If everything seems legitimate, then it could be the right car for you!

Don’t forget to negotiate though. Compared to professional car salespeople and dealerships, private sellers are far more likely to lower the cost. Try making a lowball offer, ask if they’d be willing to drop the price, and you could drive away with more money in your pocket.

How to Buy a Used Car From a Private Seller

Tens of millions of used cars are sold every year in the US. And, for a variety of reasons, including their affordability, a significant proportion of them are from private parties. Are you thinking of buying a used car from a private seller?

Well, we hope the steps and strategies in this post will help you do it. Keep them in mind and you should be one step closer to avoiding expensive mistakes and driving away with the best possible vehicle.

Don’t forget to get the vehicle history report, though! Click here to get started and check your VIN by state now.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. I believe 2 the most important steps before buying a pre-owned car are: 1) getting a history report on carvertical or carfax and 2) having a mechanic who could examine a car. Those are very simple steps, yet however they are often overlooked and people are getting not well checked cars.

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