Find Used Cars for Sale by Owner in Five Simple Steps

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Automotive News

Andrew Kaufman is an automotive journalist and content manager from Los Angeles, CA. He received his English Degree from Colorado College and has written about a variety of topics throughout his career.

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, Automotive News - March 1, 2013
used car for sale sign

When you are looking for a used car, it's important to take the time to look for used cars for sale by owner to make sure you are considering all your options for the best car and deal out there. You can find the car you need through a private seller in five easy steps by following these simple guidelines:

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Step 1: Find Used Cars for Sale by Owner through Classified Ads
There are many places to find listings for cars for sale by private owners. Print classified ads can be a good place to start, but you may want to consult the Internet for more information, including places like Craigslist and other free classified sites. Many social networking sites also offer classified ads on their sites.

Step 2: Find Used Cars for Sale by Owner through the Local Community
Take the time to ask the owners of local auto parts stores and repair shops. These people are in tune with the automotive community and often offer areas where individuals can post flyers for information on used cars or parts for sale.

Step 3: Check for Quality Used Cars for Sale by Owner
Before money exchanges hands, you need to make sure you are getting a quality used car and not one with problems you aren't aware of. One of the best ways to do this is through visual inspection. You want to see the vehicle before you agree to buy it. Look for body damage that wasn't repaired properly and ask to drive the vehicle to check for obvious mechanical or drivability problems.

Step 4: Inspect Used Cars for Sale by Owner
Once you know the car drives and you are still interested, take the car to a mechanic you trust for an overall look. They will be able to tell you what has recently been done, what needs to be done and what cannot be fixed with the car. Ultimately, your mechanic can tell you if you are getting a good deal or a lemon.

Step 5: Run the Title of Used Cars for Sale by Owner
If you've gotten through steps three and four, you are likely about ready to put the money on the table for the used car you've found. The last thing to do to protect yourself and make sure you are getting a good deal is to run a title check of the vehicle. With easy to use services, like CarFax, you can get complete information about a vehicle by running its VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

Finding a quality used car for sale by owner doesn't have to be a challenge. With a few easy steps you can make sure you are getting a great used car that you will be happy with for a long time.

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Tips for Buying a Used Car for Sale by Owner

Unlike used car dealerships, where the prices are strictly regulated by a dealer and the cars have been inspected and assessed for value, there are fewer rules and standard procedures in place for interactions between an individual owner and a customer. While this means there are a number of ways you can benefit from this situation, it also suggests some sellers can take advantage of customers who do not know what they're doing and aren't properly prepared. Follow these tips to get the best deal and the safest choice when you're purchasing a used car for sale by owner.

  • Find the Best Deals: In most cases, used cars for sale by owner should be the cheapest way of purchasing a particular vehicle (the single exception typically being salvaged cars that are damaged beyond functionality anyway). This is not necessarily a default situation, however, and you'll still have to know where to look and how to find the best deals. The single best piece of advice for a customer in this case is to look around as much as possible. The more offers you have on the table, the greater your power of negotiation and the more choices you have. Look online for classified advertisements and auction sites, in your local newspaper, peruse bulletin boards. and check in with auto enthusiast organizations in your area
  • Negotiate: It's crucial you take advantage of the fact an individual seller doesn't have a price quota to meet in the same way as a used car dealer. This means they are oftentimes more flexible and willing to negotiate the price of the car. Take advantage of this to get the best price possible.
  • Plan a Return Policy: Just as state lemon laws and car dealerships provide for a return policy, you should strive to do the same with the used car you buy from an individual owner. Include a short-term return policy in your agreement and, if possible, get the agreement down in writing as a contract before you complete your negotiations. This helps to protect your investment by giving you the opportunity to return the car for full price within a short period if time, if necessary
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Know The Risks of Buying Used Cars for Sale by Owner
While it may seem like a great idea, it is also important to consider these elements when buying a used car from an owner in a private sale.

  • Vehicle status - One thing to consider in regards to a used vehicle is whether it has a dodgy history. Any vehicle that has been previously "written off" by an insurance company and refurbished for the road carries a salvage title status that is evident on the vehicle title. Salvage title vehicles may have been previously wrecked, flooded, or otherwise damaged, therefore carrying significantly less value. Always check for a salvage title and evaluate the deal accordingly.
  • Vehicle condition - Used cars that are for sale by an owner are sold "as is". This means no warranty, and no guarantee on parts and important auto elements. If it runs, it's sold as "running well". Buyers should always rely on thorough visual inspections and professional mechanic inspections when possible. Buyers can visually catch broken features and other small cosmetic damage, but mechanics can see if a vehicle has been "band-aided" or temporarily fixed, with special temporary seals on gaskets or tanks.
  • Vehicle documentation - A buyer should always know that the seller holds the vehicle title, free and clear of liens. The buyer can also do a Carfax or other audit check online using the VIN number. If a seller does not have the VIN number (it's also evident on the title), then the deal should be off.
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If you want to save time and money, try using CarsDirect's used car advanced search function. Simply select Seller Type "Private Party" to see cars for sale by owner. It will help you sort your choices based on a number of different criteria, including mileage, age, price, and location, and will save you from running all around town looking for that perfect used car.

Related Questions and Answers

Do I Still Have to Pay Tax on Privately Sold Used Cars?

Yes, if you buy privately sold used cars, you still are required to pay taxes. It doesn't matter because if you buy something that requires sales tax and other taxes depending on the state you sell the car in; you have to pay it. You also have to pay income taxes on it if you sell a used car to someone else. If not, you may not be able to get car tags, because they have to show a bill of sale to do that. Also some states make you pay property taxes based on the price of the car.

Are there any Private Used Car Dealers that Sell on Consignment?

Yes, there are private used car dealers that will see a car on consignment for you. There are a few things you have to do in order to take advantage of this. First, you have to talk to the dealership and see what sort of percentage they keep, how long they have to sell the car, and what they need from you to make it legal. Then, the let the dealer take it and you keep the title for safety until the car sells. You also have to keep your insurance up to date until the car changes hands, since it will still legally belong to you until it actually sells.

Do I Need any Forms When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller?

If you are planning on buying a used car from a private seller, the forms you need include a title, bill of sale and forms to transfer the car and tags to your name. The seller has to sign off the title to you. Depending on the state you are buying the car in, you may need other forms as well. For instance, in California, all cars have to have a smog certificate showing they comply with local rules for smog prevention. Also, it is a good idea for all forms to be notarized. This can be done at a bank or other location. You need all these in order to transfer the vehicle to your name and get your tags.

Are Private Seller Used Cars for Sale Usually the Cheapest Option?

If you buy a car from a private seller who has used cars for sale, it may or may not be the cheapest option. You have to look around and compare things like Blue Book Value, and realize you have to pay sales tax and property taxes depending on the state in order to get your tags. You can find used cars from places like the newspaper, signs, eBay and craigslist. Double check sales ads and go to dealers and shop around. The best price may be at the dealer. You never know until you check it out.

When Selling Used Cars Privately, Do I Have to Report that Income on My Taxes?

Yes, if you are selling used cars privately you still need to pay taxes. It doesn't matter, because if you make a profit or not, then you are still selling something, and that requires sales tax and other taxes depending on the state that you sell the car in. You also have to pay income taxes on it if you sell a used car to someone else. If not, the other person can't get their car tags because they have to show a bill of sale to do that.

, Automotive News

Andrew Kaufman is an automotive journalist and content manager from Los Angeles, CA. He received his English Degree from Colorado College and has written about a variety of topics throughout his career.

Follow On: Google+

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