Buying a Used Car from a Private Party? Three Essential Tips

January 27, 2012

While big name dealerships offer plenty of visibility, reputation and selection, used car private party sales are often times a great way to find a deal while avoiding much of the large dealership hassle. Private party used cars aren’t without their share of risks, and while these risks can turn off many potential buyers, there are many ways to protect yourself from them. To ensure as smooth a sale as possible, it’s a great idea to follow a few simple tips before making the purchase.

More History and Less Mystery

Before purchasing any vehicle from a private party, it is vitally important to make sure you have  access to a current vehicle history report as well as the ability to look over the title. Make sure details such as mileage and VIN numbers match, and that the title is clear,  and ask the owner about how the car was maintained and driven. A well maintained car should have maintenance records to match, and these can give you a great window into the true condition of the car. The owner should be able and willing to answer any questions you may have, and should anything not feel right, simply walk away.

Inspections are Never Too Detailed

Look over the vehicle inside and out. Check the trunk for signs of dirt or silt, and look for any water marks or rust along the undercarriage and inside the engine especially if the car is from out of state. These signs as well as any odd mildew smells in the interior are telltale signs of flood or water damage, which is one of the most common scams found in the used car market. Double check that all accessories function properly and make sure to check coolant, oil and fluid levels before and after a test drive. Once you are satisfied that everything checks out, schedule an appointment with a trusted mechanic to look for any issues in the chassis, suspension or engine that you may have missed.

Secure Funding Ahead of Time

There is nothing worse than finding the car of your dreams and not being able to secure funding for it. While private party auto loans are available though a variety of sources, sometimes they have restrictions on vehicle age and mileage that may not work with the car you fall in love with. By securing funding before you begin your search, you come prepared with the knowledge of what you can and can’t buy which makes searching for a car far less likely to leave you crestfallen, and far more likely to be productive.

Private party used cars are a great way to find a deal on the car you’ve always wanted, without any of the hassle or markups common with a big name dealerships. While you may have a larger amount of potential risk when dealing with an individual, proper preparation and thorough evaluation can help to minimize these risks, leaving you with a great new car and extra money in your pocket.

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