If you’ve decided you’re going to buy a used car from a private owner, someone just like you, then there are some things you need to know that should help you to navigate the whole process. This is much different than buying used cars from a dealer so make sure you’re prepared.
1. Figure out your budget. If you know precisely what you can afford it’s much easier to bargain and not over-extend yourself.
2. Do some research on the base value of the car by consulting the guides and check other used cars for sale of similar make and model. You can do this easily online and it will help you determine a fair price.
3. When you decide on a car that sounds like it might be the one, ask the seller if he or she is the owner. If they are, you can get a better feel for the condition and history of the car. If not, be careful. Sometimes car-flippers try to sell less-desirable salvage cars in this manner and make a tidy profit.
4. Ask to see the maintenance records. This will tell you how gently or how unjustly the car was cared for.
5. Ask to drive it. Don’t just go around the block. Really put it through its paces to see how it performs on different roads from residential to the freeway.
6. Ask if the seller objects to an independent inspection. This eliminates any doubt about the car’s condition and the seller’s honesty.
7. Examine the car yourself thoroughly. Look for rust. Press on the car to check the shocks, look at the tires, the pedals and the interior for wear. Really put your hands on it.
8. Ask them why they’re selling the car. You may have to be a little intuitive in your interpretation of the answer, but this should tell you a lot the seller isn’t saying.
9. Ask the seller where they got the car and how many used cars they’ve sold. If they’ve sold a few, it might also indicate a car-flipper.
10. Take a moment and examine your own feeling about the seller, the car and the deal. If anything seems fishy it’s best to walk away. Your gut instinct is usually right.
Buying from a private seller can actually be fun and sometimes you can get a better deal than at a used car dealership. Follow these tips and you should have a good experience.
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