Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

If you’ve decided that it’s time to buy a new car – whether you have a new driver in the family or you’re just ready for a change and perhaps an upgrade, there are plenty of private sellers that have used vehicles for sale. However, knowing what to look for as you shop and knowing the signs of a less than trustworthy seller could make the difference between enjoying a new used car or getting stuck with a money pit. Here are some tips to help.

UsedCar“Buying a used car from a private party can score you a deal – often discounts of 15-20 percent when buying from a private seller over a dealership,” states Angie Fisher of AutoWeek.com. To avoid signing on a deal that could turn out to be too good to be true, Fisher goes on to offer some things to consider as you search.

Ask the right questions. Regardless of the car’s mileage – low or high – it’s important to ask if it has been in any accidents and how severe. Ask for maintenance receipts to show if the car has been well cared for. Ask if the seller is the original owner and if not, how much they know about who they purchased the vehicle from. Finally, always ask why they are selling; if they can’t seem to give you a straight answer, be careful about moving forward.

Know what to look for when inspecting the car. As you look over the prospective vehicle, keep an eye out for evidence of repairs, maintenance or required repairs. Some things to look for include worn tires, bent wheels, oil leaks, missing body fascia, dull paint, etc. All of these could be signs for maintenance. If you spot any of these, ask the seller about the history and gauge their reaction.

Request specific documentation. Ask for a bill of sale that includes the vehicle identification number (VIN number), make, model, selling price, mileage and any agreements that you and the seller have discussed.

Research the vehicle’s value. While Kelley Blue Book can be a helpful tool, there are other ways to determine a fair buying price for the vehicle. Look on local websites and in the local paper and see what vehicles of the make and model are selling for. You can also try calling a local auto dealer and give them your prospective vehicle’s description; ask them what the trade-in value would be. Use this information to calculate where you think your first bid should be.

When it comes to purchasing a new used vehicle, there are pros and cons to buying from either a dealership or a private seller. Whereas a dealership will have their own policies and hoops to jump through, “a private party seller is an individual just like you,” states an article from JDPower.com. “…someone who owns a vehicle that they need to sell, and who is likely selling the vehicle themselves in order to extract maximum value for it.” Some of the benefits of buying from a private seller include:

  • Lower costs. There are four values for a used vehicle: retail, private party, trade-in and certified pre-owned. The private party value typically tends to remain on the lower end of the scale when it comes to vehicle costs since the seller isn’t concerned about overhead; they are also typically more flexible on the price as they’re eager to sell their vehicle.
  • No games. Private party sellers are generally in more of a rush to sell their old vehicles. If they see that you’re a serious buyer, they may be more likely to want to complete the transaction with you as quickly as possible.

If you have questions about purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, or other financial questions, stop by your local Merchants Bank branch, where a our financial professionals are ready to help.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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