Buying a used car is a great way to save money, and doing so either privately or directly from the owner can save you even more. However, with those savings come associated risks. As a buyer, you’re not protected by warranties, guaranties or many consumer protection laws.
If you’re planning to buy a used car direct from the owner, keep reading for 5 great tips that will help protect you as a buyer and potentially save you thousands of dollars.
1. Review the Vehicle Registration Document
The car’s owner should be able to produce an authentic vehicle registration document or V5. This document will provide the car’s full information, VIN, owner’s name, owner’s address and any other ownership details.
Try to avoid sales where the ownership on the vehicle registration does not match the seller’s address or the contact information is incorrect. If you purchase a stolen vehicle and it is repossessed, the vehicle will be seized and your only recourse to get back your money will be civil action lawsuit against the thief. (Good luck with that!)
If the vehicle registration or V5 is with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as a means of recording the ownership change, the owner should be able to present a green, temporary V5.
2. Ask to See Insurance Documents
If the seller doesn’t have a current or very recently canceled insurance policy for the car, you may be dealing with a stolen vehicle. Ask yourself why someone would own a car for years, but never drive it or have registered insurance?
3. Obtain a Vehicle History Report
With just the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can obtain a vehicle history report from a service provider like CARFAX. They’ll give you a full title history, along with odometer readings and any information about the car, like whether it has been involved in any major accidents or experienced flood damage.
4. Have the Car Inspected
Before you hand over any cash in a private sale, have the vehicle inspected by an independent, licensed mechanic. Either have the owner accompany you and the vehicle to the garage or ask a mechanic to come with you to examine and evaluate the vehicle.
5. Review the Car’s Maintenance Records
A good seller will have a full file and record of receipts for most, if not all, the maintenance and repair work done on the vehicle. A mediocre seller will have at least some records, and a seller to avoid will have none.