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Buying a Used Car Privately

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 8 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Buying A Used Car Privately

One of the best ways to get a good deal on a used car is to buy privately, but be aware that there are plenty of risks involved. Private sellers will not provide the same after sales support as a reputable dealer, so once the deal is struck and the money has changed hands there is no going back.

However trustworthy a seller may seem, it pays to follow a series of checks. Try not to be influenced by the seller, however charming he may be. Instead, a buyer should come to a decision based on what he sees in front of him.

Have a good idea of what the car is worth before going to look at it. A private sale should be one of the cheapest ways to buy a used car, so beware of over-optimistic sellers being a little greedy. Buyers should be just as wary if the price is too low, as it may mean the seller is attempting to offload a car that has something to hide.

Ask Awkward Questions

Do not be afraid to ask awkward questions just because the seller has provided a nice cup of tea and a selection of biscuits. In fact, the questioning should begin before the buyer goes to view the car. First of all a buyer should scour the 'for sale' ads in the local newspaper or on the internet and pick out any suitable, reasonably priced cars. Then contact the seller, either by telephone or email, and find out:

  • If the car has had a recent MOT.
  • If the car has valid road tax and, if so, for how long.
  • What condition the car is in.
  • If the car is in full working order.
  • How long the seller has owned the car.
  • How many previous owners the car has had.
  • Why the car is up for sale.
  • How many miles the car has done.
  • What features the car has.
  • Whether or not the car has been involved in an accident.

Make sure the information given tallies with any information given in the advertisement. A buyer should also ensure he has a working telephone number - and a landline number, not just a mobile phone one - for the seller.

Always arrange to view the car at the seller's home address, never in a lay-by, motorway service station or at any other address. Make sure the address is the same as the one on the V5C document and check that the V5C has not been illegally amended. Take the original advertisement and any notes taken during the initial contact with the seller to make sure the information being given is consistent.

Be Prepared To Haggle

Check the car thoroughly for faults and go on a long test drive, listening carefully for anything that sounds untoward. Make sure all the paperwork is in order and, if interested in buying the car, be prepared to haggle.

Take any minor faults the car may have or any work that may need to be done into account and use this to negotiate a better price with the seller. Ask the seller what he expects to get, make a lower offer and then stay silent. This gives the seller two options, either accept the offer or make a counter offer. If it looks as though the seller is about to accept the offer, the buyer should move in to shake his hand and clinch the deal.

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