5 Safety Tips for Buying a Car from a Private Seller

A red Volkswagen park at the side of the street seemingly trying to gain attention from individuals who are buying a car.

Buying a car from a private seller can be much more affordable than purchasing from the dealership but there is a little more risk involved. If you have an issue with a car you bought from a dealership, you can hold the dealership responsible. Just like buying a car on eBay or from a private seller, you may never see that person again, so there are no safety measures in place. You are the only one responsible for any mishaps when you buy a car privately. Take the following steps to ensure you aren’t being scammed by a private seller.

1. Test Drive the Car

Before doing anything else, you should take your potential new car for a test drive. When test driving a car, you need to diligently look for any potential issues. Turn on the heater and the air conditioner to make sure they work, use both blinkers, turn on all the lights. While driving, you need to actively analyze the performance of the car to evaluate if it’s a good fit for you. 

2. Get An Inspection

Test driving the car is not enough to determine any potential issues with the car. Before you buy from a private seller, ask to have the car inspected. You will have to pay for the inspection yourself but it’s a cost that is worth paying to insure you won’t be spending more money on the car later on. If the private seller declines to let you inspect the vehicle, walk away from the sale entirely. Anyone who is against an inspection that you are footing the bill for is likely hiding some issues with the car. Always have the car inspected by your own mechanic, not a mechanic that the private seller suggests. 

3. Do a VIN Check 

Unfortunately, not all private sellers are honest about the state of a car’s title. There are scams that falsify car titles in order to make salvage cars look clean. Don’t take the title at face-value. While a VIN check will cost you money, you will save yourself cash down the road if the car is worth significantly less because of a salvage title. 

4. Check Kelly Blue Book 

It can be difficult to ascertain the actual worth of a car but Kelly Blue Book can help. You can look up the make, model, and year of a car for free on KBB and get an estimate of what that car should be worth. Make sure you’re not overpaying on a car by being informed about it’s value.

5. Ask for ID 

To be assured you’re not buying a stolen car, ask to see both the registration and the sellers license. Make sure the name on the license matches the name on the registration. You should only be buying directly from the owner of the car as they are the only person who can sign the title over to you. If something doesn’t match up, walk away from the sale immediately. 

While buying a car privately requires more work on your end than if you bought at a dealership, you’ll likely save a lot of money doing so. Make sure you purchase your next car responsibly using these safety tips.

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