Do This When Buying a Used Car In a Private Sale

For some people, it makes obvious sense to head straight for a dealership when you’re looking to buy a car, even a used one. There is a certain sense of comfort the average buyer gets when they buy a used car from a notable establishment. You can read reviews on the dealership and ultimately hand them your trust along with your wallet. Private selling and buying cars are another option and most people avoid it because there is a particular amount of trust required, and some big uncertainty.

Buying a car directly from the owner has some benefits. Many people hate going to car dealerships and dealing with the sometimes sleazy salespeople and buying a car privately means skipping a trip to the dealership altogether. There are as many horror stories from buying a car privately as you could imagine, but there are some things you can do to feel a little bit more secure in your purchase.

Inspecting the used car

Inspecting the outside of the car is relatively fast and easy, and you don’t have to be a licensed mechanic to know when something is amiss. While you may not notice panels having been repainted or smaller dings and dents, giving the car a general lookover is the first place to start. When you check out the body of the car you want to ensure that the body panels line up correctly, there’s no major damage that could be costly to repair – or if there is damage that you are aware of it and willing to have the repairs done. Checking the wheels and tires is also important as bent wheels can lower ride quality and become dangerous, and tires with low tread will need to be replaced soon after buying.

Check engine lights and fault codes

Check engine lights or other warning lights on the dashboard can give you an insight into how healthy the car is. Depending on the car there can be various warning lights for various things, some being warnings that the tire pressure is low or some indicating more serious problems. An OBD reader can be purchased at most auto repair stores and can give you some insight as to what the engine fault codes are. A quick Google search on your phone can help you to understand how severe the codes are or if there is any reason to be concerned. Alternatively, most mechanics can do an inspection of the car for a small fee, so if you are meeting someone to check out their car that you are interested in buying, meeting them at your mechanic’s shop isn’t a bad idea.

Title, transfer paperwork, and car history

There are several car websites that allow you to look up the history of the car. Many websites will show you the sale of the car between owners, and some even show maintenance records which can be useful in seeing if any major repairs have been needed or if recalls have been fulfilled. These websites will also show you if the car has been in any previous accidents. This information is only recorded if the owner of the car makes an insurance claim, so just because a car has a clean bill of history for accidents doesn’t necessarily mean it has never been in one.

2020 Nissan Frontier
2020 Nissan Frontier | Nissan

The last thing you want to do is make sure you have the proper title paperwork from the car’s owner and ensure that you are buying the car from the correct person. Additional paperwork like a bill of sale isn’t required in most states but it can protect both the buyer and the seller.

When buying a used car, whether, from a dealer or private sale, you can almost never know exactly what you’re getting into. There is a lot of trust and faith involved in buying a used car, and sometimes you are just hoping for the best. If you follow these steps and think with your head instead of letting your desire for the car get the better of you, you can save yourself from making a bad deal.