Eight steps to buying a private party auto
It’s not as easy as strolling onto a lot and picking out the car you want, but buying from a private party has its advantages too. Primarily, you don’t have the pressure of dealing with someone who sells used cars for a living, which often means you can negotiate a better deal.
On the flip side, you aren’t going to have the protection of a warranty, so you want to make sure and do your homework before you purchase.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure you don’t pick out a lemon:
1. Do your research. Go to the independent sources online, including Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and DriverSide, and get retail pricing for the condition and location of your chosen make and model, and be sure to get the private-party value. Align your desires to your budget.
2. Make a short list of possible acquisitions after you look through Craigslist, AutoTrader, Cars.com, your local newspaper’s classified ads and other sources you may find.
3. Call or email sellers. It’s a good idea to call in the late afternoon or early evening, when they are likely to have time, and you’re not interrupting them. Have a list of basic questions ready – including “why are you selling the car?”
4. Examine the car in person, and look at:
a. Gas and brake pedals for wear
b. Tires for even wear
c. Power accessories (windows, locks, stereo, etc.) to make sure they work
d. The shocks. Take turns at each wheel and push the car down three times, then let go. The car should bounce up, down, then stop
e. Look underneath the car for oil or coolant leaks. Look under the hood at the battery, air filter, hoses for signs of age and wear
5. Give it a test drive like you would normally drive. If you normally travel the freeway then try it there. Pay attention to brakes, acceleration and handling. Remember to look at the temperature gauge.
6. Arrange for a mechanic to inspect the car.
7. If it checks out and you like the car, make an offer. Having cash in hand gives you more leverage to close the deal.
8. Obtain the signed title from the seller when you finalize the purchase.
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