Back to top

How to buy a used car from private seller


Knowing exactly what you are buying is a key to the successful purchase of a car and never ever make your decision based on seller’s words “the car is perfect and running great”. There are a few things which will tell you a lot and will help to avoid wasting money while buying a used car from private seller.

First of all, if you are not a car savvy it is better to avoid buying a used vehicle online from private party even if all documents, records, and car history did not reflect any problems. It doesn’t really mean there are will be a car selling spam or problems with money transactions – you just might get a nice looking, but with a major mechanical problems junk.

Check car records

Vehicle history report

Instead of asking endless list of questions about the car you are interesting in - order a vehicle history report. It does not cost much but might tell you whether it is a car which potentially with a good price can be a good purchase or with issues and not even worth any considerations. If there are records of major accidents or mismatch in odometer records try to avoid such vehicle.

How to get a vehicle history report?

In order to obtain a vehicle history report you have to know the VIN or vehicle identification number of a car you are planning to buy. The car history information is available online and easy to check at Carfax or Autocheck.

Car title

Ask the owner to show the car title. After major accident the car will be issued a new title called “rebuild” or “salvage title”.  There are numerous of reasons not to buy such cars – from voiding a manufacturer warranties even if the car with its original miles and age should have it, but because of an accident it will not be covered any more - to simply personal safety and all of the problems might arise in between.

It is important to understand making your decision on a history report only might not be the best option. There are some cases the car was involved in a big accident with no records in the history recorded and that is why it always a good idea to get vehicle inspected by professionals.

Check the car


Always test drive a car before jumping into any conclusions. Strange noise, pulling car on one side while driving, squeaky brakes or any other suspicious behavior will indicate car problems. But many issues might be well hidden and for a regular driver without any mechanical knowledge will be very hard, if not say impossible, to identify. In any case, it is always better to have a vehicle inspected by mechanic you can trust or reputable independent local body shop. Usually, if the car has “masked” issues or previously was involved in a bad collision they will tell you right away after lifting an auto and 15 min. inspection. If there were some doubts about engine or transmission they might offer more detailed inspection.

Who will pay?

Do not expect from a private seller to pay for all the inspection you might want to order. The most you might ask is a car regular maintenance records. Seller might even offer and inspection from his buddy mechanic, but other thing if you want such inspection. It always a line when it comes to the budget. If the car doesn’t worth much because of age or mileage – do everything yourself or ask someone you know and who is a little bit knowledgeable about autos for a help. Do not pay half of the car price for inspections and checking. But if the car still have a value and still under transferable warranty than it is always reasonable to get a car inspected by professionals.