Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller


Many people like to sell their car privately because they typically will make more money than doing it through a dealer. Many people like the idea of buying a car from a private seller rather than dealing with used car salesmen, who do not exactly have the best reputation. Regardless of who you buy your vehicle from, you must proceed with caution. There are private sellers who may be as unscrupulous as the professionals. Some may be lacking full knowledge of the state of their vehicle, so it is up to you to make sure everything is kosher before handing over that cash. Here are just a few tips for buying cars privately.

Make Sure Private Sellers are Just That

While most private sellers are legit, making this assumption could be a costly mistake. Some used car dealers try to get their less desirable pieces of inventory sold faster by posing as a private seller; this works to their advantage since the consumer is not entitled to as many legal protections compared to buying the car from a dealership. Some other people may try to make a business reselling salvaged vehicles in poor condition. When looking at used car ads, enter the phone number in search engines to see if it comes up in ads for any other vehicles. Call the person listed in ads that are listed just above and below the ad you are looking at—these people often use software that lets them put up multiple listings at once. If the person who answers the phone is the same one, major red flag. While it is possible a private seller may have more than one vehicle for a number of reasons, most tend to be selling just one. If the person has to ask you ‘’which one,’’ another red flag.

What to Pay

Going into the process blind with no idea of what the vehicles you are looking at may be worth will likely result in you spending more than you have to. Arming yourself with this knowledge gives you more confidence in the negotiating process. Guides like NADA and Kelley Blue Book can be helpful, but looking in your local newspaper and online classifieds will give you a better idea of what cars are selling for in your area. Deduct about 20 percent to get a true selling price. You can also call local dealerships and get a quote on the trade-in price for the vehicles you are considering. This number will be low, which is why many people opt to sell privately. But, it can be a good starting point to formulate your bid.

Determine beforehand what you want to pay for the car and the most you are willing to pay. Bring that amount of money with you. Keep the money for your initial bid separatefrom the extra. Flashing that cash when making your offer can really motivate the seller to act. If you have reached your highest price and still have not gotten the results you want, be prepared to walk away. Check back in each day and see if the seller will reconsider your offer—you never know when you may catch him in a state of mind where he feels a bit more desperate.

Get the Car Inspected

Before purchasing the car, an independent inspection is a must. It will protect you against dishonest people. It will uncover problems that the owner may not have any idea exists. Any hesitation on the part of the seller is a major red flag and you should move onto the next person.