Author Topic: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?  (Read 2031 times)

kms

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I'm looking at something small in the $5,000-$8,000 price range, and there seems to be a lot of choice. Some offers seem too good to be true, like a 2016 Hyundai Accent I found on Craigslist with 23k miles for $6,800, others much more reasonable. My current favorite is a used Nissan Leaf, which seems to start at around $10,000. However, since gas is very cheap in Texas and electricity is not it might not be the most financially sound decision in the long run. Still doing the math on that. I don't feel like paying the dealership premium for being on the safe side if I don't have to, and I hate having to deal with car salesmen so if possible I would like to avoid the hassle. Not interested in financing the car, will pay full price in cash.

My wife and I have just moved to the US recently (a bit over two years ago) and I have never purchased a used car from a private seller before. Any tips what red flags to look out for?

HenryDavid

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2018, 10:27:47 AM »
Assess the seller before assessing the car (or anything bought this way).
From the first communication you get signals. Anything weird,  not clear and forthrightóbail. 
Spend a bit of time chatting and you should get a sense of the person.
A trustworthy seller is more important than a slight issue with the vehicle, whcih you can fix later.

mindaugas

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2018, 11:24:57 AM »
There is a LOT of fraud on CL, but its easy to tell from the photos (car is obviously not in your location) and bad description. That Hyundai may also be cheap because it's salvage. And well, it's Hyundai.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2018, 11:40:26 AM »
As others have said, there are a lot of scams for cars on Craigslist. Typically, they start with cars being listed for absurdly low prices. When you follow up with the seller, they'll give some reason you can't see the car immediately. They're away on military duty, the car is in another city and they'll ship it to you, etc. Usually you'll sniff out these scams pretty quickly - a real seller should be eager to meet with you and show you the car.

ANother risk (far less common) is robberies that take place during Craigslist transactions. They're rare enough that I don't give them too much thought, but the last time I looked at a Craiglist car, the seller offered to meet me in the local police parking lot. I thought that was pretty smart.

Finally, I have looked into Leafs, and it's nearly impossible for me to find a used Leaf whose total cost of ownership even comes close to the total cost of owning a conventional gas-powered car - and that's even when making pretty pessimistic assumptions about battery life and replacement costs. On average, I estimate that a Leaf will cost about $500/year less to drive than a comparable vehicle (say, a Honda Fit). It is incredibly easy to find used Leafs for <$10,000 in most cities, and you'll never have to pay for gas or oil. Really, the only excuse for owning a gas-powered car is if you depend on the extra driving range or are regularly transporting more than 4 passengers. Leafs are a tremendous deal right now.

tyrannostache

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2018, 01:07:55 PM »
I recently bought a car from a private seller. A few factors in the initial listing: price seemed reasonable (not too low, not too high), lots of good pictures of the car that clearly showed the location and flaws (scammers seem to use just a few generic pictures that could have been taken anywhere from L.A. to Pittsburgh)

With the first contact, you should get a pretty decent sense of whether they're a real person or a scammer. They should be eager to show you the car without asking for anything in return, and willing to meet at a neutral/safe location. I think it's a plus if they have a real-life facebook profile or other online presence. A critical factor for me is whether they are willing to let me take the vehicle to a mechanic to get checked out.

The folks we ended up buying from turned out to be a very sweet retired couple who were getting ready to move to Florida. After several no-flag interactions, I agreed to go to their house to finish up the sale. They offered me a tunafish sandwich, and then walked me through their garage asking if there was anything else I could use. So I got lunch, a sweet bike rack, and some car cleaning supplies out of the deal.

kms

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2018, 02:05:28 PM »
Thanks everybody for the tips so far. I'm familiar with the usual scams but am more worried about missing something. Like for example how to figure out whether a car has a clean title or not? Also, another question that just popped into my head: how do you actually pay for the car? Do I have to bring $7k-$10k in cash or will the seller take a check? If so how is he/she going to know it won't bounce?

Finally, I have looked into Leafs, and it's nearly impossible for me to find a used Leaf whose total cost of ownership even comes close to the total cost of owning a conventional gas-powered car - and that's even when making pretty pessimistic assumptions about battery life and replacement costs. On average, I estimate that a Leaf will cost about $500/year less to drive than a comparable vehicle (say, a Honda Fit). It is incredibly easy to find used Leafs for <$10,000 in most cities, and you'll never have to pay for gas or oil. Really, the only excuse for owning a gas-powered car is if you depend on the extra driving range or are regularly transporting more than 4 passengers. Leafs are a tremendous deal right now.
Thanks, that's pretty much where I'm at right now as well. However, given the price of a new battery and the difference in price the Leaf might still end up costing much more than expected. From what I can see the difference between a small ~5-year old gasoline-powered car and a similarly old Nissan Leaf is going to be between $2k-$3k. It is almost impossible to find a Leaf  in Austin for less than $10k unless it has more than 60k miles on the clock. The TCO difference of $500 will result in an amortization if between 4-6 years, at which those two will break even. However, after 4-6 years the Leaf's battery will be 10-12 years and 80-100k miles old and would thus most likely need replacement.

That's why I'm still torn: the Leaf is great if you drive a lot, electricity is cheap, and fuel is expensive. However, it's exactly the other way around in Texas: fuel is cheap, electricity is expensive (the extra charges in summer almost double the price per kWh) and the heat will kill that battery faster than my wife can chase down a scorpion in our house.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 02:31:12 PM by kms »

charis

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2018, 03:14:56 PM »
Thanks everybody for the tips so far. I'm familiar with the usual scams but am more worried about missing something. Like for example how to figure out whether a car has a clean title or not? Also, another question that just popped into my head: how do you actually pay for the car? Do I have to bring $7k-$10k in cash or will the seller take a check? If so how is he/she going to know it won't bounce?

I've bought and sold a few cars on CL.  Email the seller, asked for the VIN, and an appointment to see the car (asap, good deals are gone almost immediately).  You can google a few websites that can run a free "VIN checker," but I bought a $6 carfax on Ebay and had the full carfax in minutes.  That will tell you most of what you need to know.  I also have a car inspected at my mechanic, and a legit seller will not have a problem with that at all.  You can get a cashier's check from your bank.  It's guaranteed funds - will not bounce.

swampwiz

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2018, 05:06:59 PM »
I'm curious as to what pricing standard you are seeking to reach: wholesale, retail or somewhere in-between.  If it's not in-between, then there is no motivation for either party to simply avoid the hassle and buy/sell the car to a dealer.

I generally take the attitude that anyone selling his car is doing so because his car has some intermittent issues, and he is hoping that such issues will not be apparent when being examined.  For this reason, I have only bought new or certified used, except for one time when I bought from a trusted source (i.e., my father's work colleague), or if the car was handed down to me, LOL. 

I would definitely have a mechanic do an inspection, and after my own pre-inspection (there are a lot of YouTube videos of any platform car as to how to do this pre-inspection).

kms

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2018, 07:46:45 AM »
@Hamburger Hank That's a brilliant idea, thank you! I'll try to scout the local buy & sell pages on FaceBook and NextDoor first.

@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

charis

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2018, 08:03:04 AM »
You don't need to pay the premium to buy from a dealer unless you are an average car consumer and don't want to do the extra work required.  There's nothing wrong with that - I've purchased a few cars privately and a couple from a dealer. 

The private sales were as follows: a university couple moving overseas who barely drove their car; a young man who was probably flipping cars online for a quick, modest profit (no issues with the car for many years); and a growing family who need to move up to a minivan.  All good experiences with no secret issues. 

I've sold a couple of cars "with issues" but they were priced accordingly (way under KBB value) and the buyers got good deals because I wanted to unload quickly. 

If you are diligent and savy, you'll be fine buying privately.  If you rush, fail to do your homework, and ignore red flags, you will probably get burned. 

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2018, 08:23:36 AM »
Thanks everybody for the tips so far. I'm familiar with the usual scams but am more worried about missing something. Like for example how to figure out whether a car has a clean title or not? Also, another question that just popped into my head: how do you actually pay for the car? Do I have to bring $7k-$10k in cash or will the seller take a check? If so how is he/she going to know it won't bounce?

Finally, I have looked into Leafs, and it's nearly impossible for me to find a used Leaf whose total cost of ownership even comes close to the total cost of owning a conventional gas-powered car - and that's even when making pretty pessimistic assumptions about battery life and replacement costs. On average, I estimate that a Leaf will cost about $500/year less to drive than a comparable vehicle (say, a Honda Fit). It is incredibly easy to find used Leafs for <$10,000 in most cities, and you'll never have to pay for gas or oil. Really, the only excuse for owning a gas-powered car is if you depend on the extra driving range or are regularly transporting more than 4 passengers. Leafs are a tremendous deal right now.
Thanks, that's pretty much where I'm at right now as well. However, given the price of a new battery and the difference in price the Leaf might still end up costing much more than expected. From what I can see the difference between a small ~5-year old gasoline-powered car and a similarly old Nissan Leaf is going to be between $2k-$3k. It is almost impossible to find a Leaf  in Austin for less than $10k unless it has more than 60k miles on the clock. The TCO difference of $500 will result in an amortization if between 4-6 years, at which those two will break even. However, after 4-6 years the Leaf's battery will be 10-12 years and 80-100k miles old and would thus most likely need replacement.

That's why I'm still torn: the Leaf is great if you drive a lot, electricity is cheap, and fuel is expensive. However, it's exactly the other way around in Texas: fuel is cheap, electricity is expensive (the extra charges in summer almost double the price per kWh) and the heat will kill that battery faster than my wife can chase down a scorpion in our house.

I looked at a Leaf in ATL, 2014 with 42K miles for under $9,000. But I suppose every market is different. They're literally cheaper than a Honda Civic with comparable mileage over here. As you note, your rate of savings depends on the spread between gas and electricity prices, as well as number of miles driven. Since I drive ~20K miles/year, the savings accrue pretty quickly as compared to a light user. For me, the difference would be about $1200/year in energy savings for an electric vehicle.

carbrain

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2018, 03:02:28 PM »
The Leaf sounds pretty interesting. Electric cars in general seem to be trendy if you're in a major city, I see those parking spots in malls and Universities that can charge your electric car. However, when browsing used cars I generally make sure they have some kind of vehicle history / maintenance report, and do some preliminary checks like checking the tire etc.

swampwiz

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2018, 04:29:45 PM »
@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

Sure, there are some folks who have a perfectly fine car, and are selling it just because they don't need it; however, I think that there are more folks who have a lemon and trying to get rid of it.  Folks who are buying a new car have the option of trading in the old car at its wholesale value; the only reason someone would avoid that is to try and recoup a little more value by disintermediating the dealer, but most folks wouldn't bother with that (i.e., someone would need to be a real cheapskate to do this, but if that were the case, and the car were in good shape, such a person would continue driving his old car).

"Certified Used" is a marketing idea in which the trade-in is given a very close inspection, and only if it passed that inspection does it get the designation.  The manufactures are so sure that these are good cars that they will warrant them.  I have only had 1 car that i bought like this (the car model I wanted was no longer being made, so I had to get a used one), and it's been wonderful.

charis

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2018, 06:26:53 PM »
@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

Sure, there are some folks who have a perfectly fine car, and are selling it just because they don't need it; however, I think that there are more folks who have a lemon and trying to get rid of it.  Folks who are buying a new car have the option of trading in the old car at its wholesale value; the only reason someone would avoid that is to try and recoup a little more value by disintermediating the dealer, but most folks wouldn't bother with that (i.e., someone would need to be a real cheapskate to do this, but if that were the case, and the car were in good shape, such a person would continue driving his old car).

"Certified Used" is a marketing idea in which the trade-in is given a very close inspection, and only if it passed that inspection does it get the designation.  The manufactures are so sure that these are good cars that they will warrant them.  I have only had 1 car that i bought like this (the car model I wanted was no longer being made, so I had to get a used one), and it's been wonderful.

I just gave you several examples of personally buying and selling privately, all good experiences. Several friends and family have done the same. How many lemons have you personally bought or sold? Everyone knows that you take a bath in a trade in and purchase with a dealer.  Like I said, if you don't want to do the work fine, but don't pretend it's not mostly laziness.

radram

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2018, 08:04:35 PM »
@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

Sure, there are some folks who have a perfectly fine car, and are selling it just because they don't need it; however, I think that there are more folks who have a lemon and trying to get rid of it.  Folks who are buying a new car have the option of trading in the old car at its wholesale value; the only reason someone would avoid that is to try and recoup a little more value by disintermediating the dealer, but most folks wouldn't bother with that (i.e., someone would need to be a real cheapskate to do this, but if that were the case, and the car were in good shape, such a person would continue driving his old car).

"Certified Used" is a marketing idea in which the trade-in is given a very close inspection, and only if it passed that inspection does it get the designation.  The manufactures are so sure that these are good cars that they will warrant them.  I have only had 1 car that i bought like this (the car model I wanted was no longer being made, so I had to get a used one), and it's been wonderful.

So you compare an ordinary human with a car salesman..... and readily give the nod to the car salesman?

You and I are just from 2 different worlds swampwiz. In my opinion, the ONLY thing of value from a dealership is a warranty. Everything else means absolutely nothing to me. Car dealerships are not playing from an even playing field. Once you own a dealership, you have NO COMPETITION, by agreement with your car manufacturer. Also, by LAW, a new car can not be purchased outside of a registered dealer. With that kind of protection, there is just not enough incentive to always be honest. I can screw my customers and no one else can sell these cars within a certain radius. They CAN be honest, but I go in figuring they are not. Certified means absolute shit without a written warranty. You are buying a used piece of equipment, with over 100,000 pieces and parts. They break. WAY less than they used to, but they still break.

For all of you that insist on having your mechanic inspect your purchase, don't forget to ask them if they will warranty their inspection(hint: they won't).

With a craigslist purchase I figure there is something I am missing, and I make my offer accordingly.

swampwiz

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2018, 11:08:34 PM »
@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

Sure, there are some folks who have a perfectly fine car, and are selling it just because they don't need it; however, I think that there are more folks who have a lemon and trying to get rid of it.  Folks who are buying a new car have the option of trading in the old car at its wholesale value; the only reason someone would avoid that is to try and recoup a little more value by disintermediating the dealer, but most folks wouldn't bother with that (i.e., someone would need to be a real cheapskate to do this, but if that were the case, and the car were in good shape, such a person would continue driving his old car).

"Certified Used" is a marketing idea in which the trade-in is given a very close inspection, and only if it passed that inspection does it get the designation.  The manufactures are so sure that these are good cars that they will warrant them.  I have only had 1 car that i bought like this (the car model I wanted was no longer being made, so I had to get a used one), and it's been wonderful.

I just gave you several examples of personally buying and selling privately, all good experiences. Several friends and family have done the same. How many lemons have you personally bought or sold? Everyone knows that you take a bath in a trade in and purchase with a dealer.  Like I said, if you don't want to do the work fine, but don't pretend it's not mostly laziness.

Actually, my parents once had such a lemon Chevy Cutlass in the early '80s.  It was still (barely) under warranty and all the issues were disclosed.  Perhaps the warranty period had wrung out all the issues.

swampwiz

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2018, 11:12:13 PM »
@swampwiz I don't get your point, and I don't necessarily agree with your premise of people selling their car because something's wrong with it. I've had to sell two perfectly fine motorcycles simply because I moved out of country, and it would have been impractical for me to import them into the US. Plus, I know quite a few people who sell their car simply because it's fully paid for and they think they need (re: want) a new one. The money they make by selling the old car is then used as downpayment for the new car, and the cycle continues. I agree that buying from a trusted source is much better though. And isn't "certified used" simply a fancy word for "used", more often than not accompanied by a hefty price premium?

Sure, there are some folks who have a perfectly fine car, and are selling it just because they don't need it; however, I think that there are more folks who have a lemon and trying to get rid of it.  Folks who are buying a new car have the option of trading in the old car at its wholesale value; the only reason someone would avoid that is to try and recoup a little more value by disintermediating the dealer, but most folks wouldn't bother with that (i.e., someone would need to be a real cheapskate to do this, but if that were the case, and the car were in good shape, such a person would continue driving his old car).

"Certified Used" is a marketing idea in which the trade-in is given a very close inspection, and only if it passed that inspection does it get the designation.  The manufactures are so sure that these are good cars that they will warrant them.  I have only had 1 car that i bought like this (the car model I wanted was no longer being made, so I had to get a used one), and it's been wonderful.

So you compare an ordinary human with a car salesman..... and readily give the nod to the car salesman?

You and I are just from 2 different worlds swampwiz. In my opinion, the ONLY thing of value from a dealership is a warranty. Everything else means absolutely nothing to me. Car dealerships are not playing from an even playing field. Once you own a dealership, you have NO COMPETITION, by agreement with your car manufacturer. Also, by LAW, a new car can not be purchased outside of a registered dealer. With that kind of protection, there is just not enough incentive to always be honest. I can screw my customers and no one else can sell these cars within a certain radius. They CAN be honest, but I go in figuring they are not. Certified means absolute shit without a written warranty. You are buying a used piece of equipment, with over 100,000 pieces and parts. They break. WAY less than they used to, but they still break.

For all of you that insist on having your mechanic inspect your purchase, don't forget to ask them if they will warranty their inspection(hint: they won't).

With a craigslist purchase I figure there is something I am missing, and I make my offer accordingly.

I typically have bought only new cars, only buying a regular used one from my father's work colleague (at wholesale value), and then a Certified Used one (which I considered to be basically like a new car with proportional depreciation) which 13 years & 150K miles later is still going strong.  Of course, when I had purchased new cars, I always got a good deal, as I was never in "must buy" mode (ironically, the time I bought that Certified Used car, I was, due to a major hurricane flood at the time), and I am a terrific "grinder" when dealing with new car salesmen.

Now there is one other class of cars that can be trusted - rental cars - but unfortunately they usually have had a hard life, and they sell for a premium.  Why?  Because folks can trust that the owner isn't trying to unload a lemon.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 11:15:29 PM by swampwiz »

swampwiz

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2018, 11:21:39 PM »
Certified means absolute shit without a written warranty. You are buying a used piece of equipment, with over 100,000 pieces and parts. They break. WAY less than they used to, but they still break.

Uh, a Certified Used car does come with a warranty - at least the original one, and typically with extra time.  The manufacturer basically considers a CU car as being like a new one - in fact even better since it is able to do a thorough inspection to see how things have been working out.  Now the manufacturers weren't interested in becoming used car dealers, but they did want to attract customers who could be upsold into buying a new car every year or so (or leasing, etc.), and the CU marketing meme allows for this to be orderly and efficient.  There typically is only a premium of $500 on such a car, which to me is worth knowing that I've not gotten a lemon.  In fact, when a dealer is selling his own make's car as not being CU, I have to wonder if the car just didn't pass.  Bayesian statistics is your friend!

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2018, 04:43:30 AM »
Thanks everybody for the tips so far. I'm familiar with the usual scams but am more worried about missing something. Like for example how to figure out whether a car has a clean title or not? Also, another question that just popped into my head: how do you actually pay for the car? Do I have to bring $7k-$10k in cash or will the seller take a check? If so how is he/she going to know it won't bounce?

For the title, you can run a Carfax, as has already been suggested.  But also, if the seller is serious about selling the car, he will bring the title with him and you can inspect it directly.  Make sure it doesn't say "salvage" or "rebuilt" on it anywhere, and make sure it doesn't indicate that the car has a lien on it.

For a modest priced car, you can just bring a wad of cash with you.  I've done that before.  Just make sure you meet in a highly public, well-lit place.  Alternatively, you can offer to meet in the parking lot of your bank during business hours.  If you agree on a sale, the two of you can then walk inside and he can observe you obtaining a cashier's check or certified check, and he'll know it isn't fake.  No seller who knows what he is doing will accept a cashier's check under any other circumstances.  Also, if the title transfer or bill of sale needs to be notarized, you can get that done while you're there.

You'll also need to figure out the logistics of getting the car titled and registered so it will be legal to drive.  You may have to leave it parked at the meeting place while you go to the DMV to handle that.  Or arrange to have it towed/hauled to your house.

As to the lemon debate: yes, you should do your best to inspect the car for any obvious issues.  But ultimately there is always the possibility that something is going to be wrong with the car.  If the seller can produce complete maintenance records, that is a good reassurance that the drive train hasn't been terribly abused.  Also, make sure you do a long test drive that covers starting the car, driving on city streets, a short stretch of open highway, and low-speed sharp turns in a parking lot.  If anything doesn't feel or sound right, take a pass.  But even if everything checks out, you have to accept the possibility that the car can break down tomorrow (the same also holds true for any non-warranted used car purchased from a dealer).  That's why you're getting a deal on the price.  If you can't accept that possibility, then you'll have to pay the price premium for a warranted car at a dealership.

radram

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2018, 09:16:13 AM »
Certified means absolute shit without a written warranty. You are buying a used piece of equipment, with over 100,000 pieces and parts. They break. WAY less than they used to, but they still break.

Uh, a Certified Used car does come with a warranty - at least the original one, and typically with extra time.  The manufacturer basically considers a CU car as being like a new one - in fact even better since it is able to do a thorough inspection to see how things have been working out.  Now the manufacturers weren't interested in becoming used car dealers, but they did want to attract customers who could be upsold into buying a new car every year or so (or leasing, etc.), and the CU marketing meme allows for this to be orderly and efficient.  There typically is only a premium of $500 on such a car, which to me is worth knowing that I've not gotten a lemon.  In fact, when a dealer is selling his own make's car as not being CU, I have to wonder if the car just didn't pass.  Bayesian statistics is your friend!

According to this article, the average markup for CU is 20%. (https://www.autotrader.com/car-tips/how-much-more-does-cpo-car-cost-231072 ) .

Thank you for agreeing that auto dealers are involved in some shady selling tactics.

For me, it is all about cost of ownership and what you receive for that cost. You will pay more than I, and you believe you are getting value in that extra cost. I disagree. Speaking of stats, do you have any data that shows CU, or dealer bought vehicles have a lower cost of ownership than private party sales?

I have no such data to defend my position, only my life experience. My credit Union sells former rental cars. Their price list shows only cars that cost at least double what I am willing to pay.

My latest purchase is a 2008 Honda Fit, with 73,000 miles for $5,500. Closest dealer price within 100 miles is $1,500 more(almost 30% markup). New starts at $16,000 and is well beyond my acceptable vehicle cost of $1,000 per year and per 10,000 miles of driving, after adding the cost of repairs.

I do agree that having no NEED to buy a car makes a HUGE difference. Professional salespeople can smell the blood in the water before you can select your doughnut. I have purchased cars when I needed them, and my mind is very willing to overlook what my normally picky mind would walk away from.

Consumer Reports sums up my opinion on CU cars (https://www.consumerreports.org/used-cars/the-truth-about-certified-pre-owned-cars/ ):
"Instead of paying a premium for a certified used car, CRís auto experts say that consumers looking for the best value should save their money and use our list to find a non-certified used car thatís likely to be reliable. They can then put aside the savings to cover any repairs that might crop up."

jleo

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2018, 04:28:10 PM »
Verify miles are true.

Check title does not say R/S which means restored salvage (been deemed a total loss and then rebuilt)

Always pay for an auto check or car fax.

Check vin# to title matches multiple spots on the physical vehicles vin#

Take to mechanic before buying it will pay for itself in long run, remember every car needs something just make sure its nothing critical and if it needs brakes or something minor like that then negotiate it in the price.


ltt

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2018, 07:09:11 AM »
We have sold a few vehicles before.  I also watch out for the purchaser just as well.

Two of the vehicles sold belonged to my father (who had passed away).  I wanted neither vehicle because they didn't work for our growing family.

My father kept meticulous vehicle records.  One was a small truck with a manual transmission and the back seats were very small.  The vehicle was several years old and had very low miles.  My husband still thinks we should have kept it--no thanks :)  We sold it to one of my husband's co-workers brother.  I hope it made him a great pickup over the years.

The other vehicle that belonged to my dad was a sporty Grand Am.  Perfect for a teenager, but not for us.  Sure enough a teen showed up at our home to look at it, went through the engine, and wanted to buy it.  We were not willing to sell the vehicle to a minor, but would sell to his parent.  His mother came over to our home and they ended up buying it.  I think she worked in a division of law enforcement.

Another vehicle we sold was a very old Corolla.  It needed some work and didn't run.  It was sold to an elderly gentleman who wanted it for his wife.  He had his adult son come to look at it and went through the engine--they towed it away.  I had all the maintenance records.  We didn't sell it for very much.  We did all the paperwork, and away they went.  The man called me a few days later and said he lost the title, and wondered if I could get a duplicate.  I had kept a copy of all our paperwork, so it was easy to do.  He even brought me the money to go to the courthouse. 

We've never had a bad experience selling a car.  If you are on the up-and-up and the other person is, it will be a great experience.  Any decent person will keep their maintenance records and hand them over to you to look at when you are viewing the car.




charis

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2018, 07:24:42 AM »
Actually, my parents once had such a lemon Chevy Cutlass in the early '80s.  It was still (barely) under warranty and all the issues were disclosed.  Perhaps the warranty period had wrung out all the issues.

Telling me that your parents owned a Cutlass in the 80s is not responsive to my question of whether you've personally bought or sold a car with hidden problems in a private sale.  That's what you are preaching about protecting yourself from.  If it helps you feel better about your to buy from a dealer, go for it (as I said, I have also done this).  But it comes with a mark up that's not worth it to the people on this thread, and elsewhere that have actually experience buying and selling privately.

Dabnasty

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2018, 10:44:20 AM »
Actually, my parents once had such a lemon Chevy Cutlass in the early '80s.  It was still (barely) under warranty and all the issues were disclosed.  Perhaps the warranty period had wrung out all the issues.

Telling me that your parents owned a Cutlass in the 80s is not responsive to my question of whether you've personally bought or sold a car with hidden problems in a private sale.  That's what you are preaching about protecting yourself from.  If it helps you feel better about your [decision] to buy from a dealer, go for it (as I said, I have also done this).  But it comes with a mark up that's not worth it to the people on this thread, and elsewhere that have actually experience buying and selling privately.

Nailed it.

For an actual data point: I've sold one vehicle, a Dodge Dakota, through craigslist. Offered $4000 by CarMax and I sold it for $6700. Never checked on a trade in value but I assume it would be less than CarMax. Ended up selling to the 3rd person I showed it to.

I've also purchased one vehicle through craigslist, a Honda Fit. Got a pre-purchase inspection done at a Honda dealership and the seller agreed to knock the cost off the asking price, the cost of recommended repairs, and haggled a bit to get from $5500 list price to $4500 (so I paid $4500+$150 for the inspection). The cheapest "no haggle" price for a Fit I could find on CarMax today was $8000. It was the same model year as mine, similar features, admittedly lower mileage but 120k vs. 140k isn't a big deal, and since I made this purchase ~3 years ago that means the CarMax listing is now 3 years older.

I learned something today. CarMax is a rip-off :)

ETA: this is not a well formed opinion of CarMax if that wasn't already obvious. I have little experience with them and they probably are a good deal in some instances but the point is you are always going to be paying a premium for their services and in some cases you probably are getting ripped off. And maybe the Fit is in extra high demand or something because KBB value on the one I mentioned was nowhere near $8000,
« Last Edit: October 22, 2018, 10:52:46 AM by Dabnasty »

Dabnasty

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2018, 11:21:11 AM »
Oh shoot, totally forgot I've bought 2 more cars from private sellers... sort of. They were both purchased by my GF but I helped with research and negotiation. They were both 2012 Hyundai Elantras and the first was from a coworker leaving the country. We lucked out there and paid just over trade in value as that was his next best option so I won't count that one. The second was to replace the first after it was totaled in an accident. We test drove a bunch of used, very similar Elantras at dealerships and I think every one we saw came from a rental fleet. A comparable replacement of what she had would have been ~$9500-$10,000. Checked out one private listing for $8,500 which again was very similar to what she had. Seller had good records and the mileage was low so we didn't bother with a pre-purchase inspection. Offered $8000 and that was it. Saved a good $1500 and got sweet WeatherTech floor and trunk mats out of the deal. We were pretty lucky to find that deal with the first person we met with but if it was up to me we would have spent the whole day meeting private sellers instead of wasting our time with all the used dealers.

talltexan

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2018, 08:23:16 AM »
We were fortunate to sell our car to neighbors for the use of their daughter. four years later we are still neighbors, and the daughter still adores the car, even named it.

But I know more car transactions are coming, and I really would like to enter into the private sale market to avoid making exhorbitant payments for a new car.

kms

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #26 on: October 23, 2018, 09:16:49 AM »
Thanks everybody for their input and help. I've learned four valuable lessons in the past few days.

1) It makes absolutely no sense to argue with a pregnant wife who refuses to endanger her unborn child in a small yet fuel-efficient Yaris/Versa/Sonic after realizing how small they actually are compared to all those massive towering pickup trucks and full-size SUVs (GO TEXAS!) So even though we initially agreed on a small car for less than 10k she backed down after seeing a Yaris downtown this weekend. I think she never fully realized how small they were, and changed her mind to insist on something bigger and subjectively and arguably safer (I know, I know... again, try arguing with a pregnant wife...).

2) The private seller market for less than 5 year old used cars that cost more than $10k is practically nonexistent, at least here in Austin. And whatever is available is massively overpriced and not necessarily cheaper than when purchased from a dealer. Once you get to 12-14k the differences vanish all but entirely. I'm guessing that most people prefer to trade-in their 3-5 year old used car when purchasing a new clown car, and thus supply is rather limited (and so is demand, for that matter). In return, the private seller market is flooded with cars 8+ years old with more than 100k miles in various conditions.

3) For some cars, the difference between a used 2011 and a 2017 model is negligible (read: 2k). Which means they hold up in price fairly well, and depreciation should not be a big problem once the initial crash of a driving it off the dealer's lot is dealt with.

4) The Nissan Leaf would not have been worth it in our specific situation. We don't drive enough (thank god) and from what some people have told me the Leaf's range is significantly reduced in hot weather due to its A/C that was not designed for the climate in the Southern US. Thus, instead of 60-70 miles we were told to expect more around 35-40 miles in the Texas summer, which lasts pretty much from mid to late February through September. In addition, the Leaf's batteries seem to suffer immensely in the heat, and they age much faster than compared to more moderate climates.

Long story short: instead of getting a used and fuel-efficient Yaris/Versa/Sonic or even Leaf I ended up purchasing a used fully-loaded low-mileage 2017 Kia Soul for $14k from carvana.com instead. The car has 41 months of its 60 month warranty left and once sold for around 22k when it was brand-new. Paid in full and expect to drive it until it falls apart.

Again, thanks everybody for their input and advice.

Just Joe

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2018, 11:07:32 AM »
The value of a Car Max purchase MAY change with where the Car Max is located. We bought a good SUV for several thousand less than CPO cars on offer at the time from that brand's dealers in a radius several hundred miles. The SUV was spotless inside and out, no salesman upsells or haggling, and the price was at the low end of the NADA value estimates for its condition, age and mileage. We provided our own financing through our credit union.

The brand car dealers would not haggle over the phone or email. Each wanted us to visit and i was not driving 3 hrs to haggle over a vehicle I could already purchase for less at Car Max.

First Car Max visit lasted under an hour including the test drive. We knew exactly which vehicle we wanted from the website. The second visit completed the transaction and it too lasted under an hour. I had completed the credit union financing over the phone and only had to visit to pick up the cashier's check before the drive over to Car Max.

Car Max reached out to us in a week or so to make sure the vehicle was everything we thought it was and offered an extended warranty once or twice via a mailer. We did not buy it because we trusted the condition of the vehicle, the Car Fax report and our experience with the brand previously.

We have had the vehicle now for several years with out any hiccups. It is paid off.

SpareChange

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2018, 11:28:59 AM »
Long story short: instead of getting a used and fuel-efficient Yaris/Versa/Sonic or even Leaf I ended up purchasing a used fully-loaded low-mileage 2017 Kia Soul for $14k from carvana.com instead. The car has 41 months of its 60 month warranty left and once sold for around 22k when it was brand-new. Paid in full and expect to drive it until it falls apart.

How was the Carvana experience?

Lady Stash

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2018, 06:22:30 PM »
Last time I bought a used car from craigslist I got a used car loan from my credit union to finance it.  I paid off the loan a few months later. 

The seller went with me to my mechanic for an engine check and then to the credit union.  All told, it took about 4 hours.

Because the credit union was financing the car, they checked the title, handled the money transfer and made sure the care was properly transferred to me.   Might be an easy way to make sure all the paper is work is done properly.


Erica

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2018, 08:16:22 PM »
My husband goes to the wrecking yard to get a vehicle. They are there because they had full coverage insurance. He is a great mechanic but even if he wasn't, I'd go there anyhow. Even if I was single and needed to pay for whatever needs to be done. No surprises, they seem more honest than the typical private seller. JMHO

Edited to add: I call it the wrecking yard but it is likely called Auto Recyclers. They have plenty of very nice cars we've done well with. It's just as simple to work on a BMW as it is any other car. The parts cost about the same too. Decades ago, this wasn't the case.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2018, 08:18:09 PM by Erica »

kms

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2018, 06:50:06 AM »
How was the Carvana experience?
So far I have nothing to complain about. The entire process was as painless as can be.

  • The photos and 360-degree tour were accurate, and the description of the vehicle was spot on. There are two minor scuffs on the bumpers that they mentioned and provided close-up photographs of, the interior is as described (no stains on the seats, no signs of use anywhere), and the listing included a link to the CarFax report of the vehicle.
  • Because I chose not to finance the car through them (apparently they've got very good rates but from what I've read they are using a sub-prime lender) or my bank (the amount was so low that I would've ended up with a 6.14% APR, so no thank you) but paid full price upfront instead ($13,600 + taxes, registration, and title = $14,398) I had to go through an extra step verifying that my bank account was sufficiently funded (aka a three-way call between me, Carvana, and the bank).
  • Delivery was scheduled for Thursday between 10-11am (time of purchase was Tuesday night at around 10:30pm), and at 10:03 the truck driver called me asking if we were still all set or if I needed more time. At 10:55 the delivery truck pulled up in my driveway, unloaded the Soul, and I was handed the keys for a test drive around the block. When I came back and decided to take the vehicle we signed the paperwork, the driver handed me all the documents, and went through everything I needed to know (warranty, 7 day trial period, etc.).
  • Since it was raining they said they were unable to wash the vehicle prior to delivery, so they offered me a $25 check for taking it to a car wash myself instead

I now have 7 days and 400 miles to test drive the car and decide whether or not I want to keep it. I have to be honest: this was the most painless vehicle purchase process I have ever experienced. The only thing I've noticed is that the car is a bit smelly at first but that's nothing that can't be taken care of with a little bit of Febreze love.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2018, 11:11:29 AM by kms »

SpareChange

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2018, 09:35:16 AM »
Very cool! Thank you!

h82goslw

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2018, 12:34:29 PM »
Great write up KMS....thanks for sharing that buying experience.  Iíve wondered how Carvana does it.

And to swampwiz....CPO is just a marketing scheme to make you think youíre buying a better car for less.  Do you really think the dealer is doing you a favor? Do the research....they charge extra for the car, youíre not really saving anything. 

Iíve bought 2 cars off craigslist locally and one from eBay where I flew half way across the country and drove it home and all cars were as good as described and ran great. Not everyone is trying to offload a lemon.

SpareChange

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2018, 11:20:14 AM »
For those that have bought from private sellers, do any of you bank through your brokerage? How did you pay? I use Ameritrade, which doesn't issue cashier's checks as far as I can tell. Do apps like Venmo fill such a need?

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #35 on: October 26, 2018, 05:46:50 PM »
For those that have bought from private sellers, do any of you bank through your brokerage? How did you pay? I use Ameritrade, which doesn't issue cashier's checks as far as I can tell. Do apps like Venmo fill such a need?

I've only bought from a private seller once.  I paid cash. 

I've also sold several cars to private buyers.  The first couple times I didn't really know what I was doing, and I accepted cashier's checks.  Luckily I was dealing with honest people.  Since then, I've only accepted cash.  I might accept a cashier's check or certified check if I went to the bank with the buyer and verified that the check was real and the person had the cash to back it up.  But no way would I take any kind of check from a seller under any other circumstances, unless it was someone I know and trust.

SugarMountain

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2018, 04:58:33 PM »
For those that have bought from private sellers, do any of you bank through your brokerage? How did you pay? I use Ameritrade, which doesn't issue cashier's checks as far as I can tell. Do apps like Venmo fill such a need?

I've only bought from a private seller once.  I paid cash. 

I've also sold several cars to private buyers.  The first couple times I didn't really know what I was doing, and I accepted cashier's checks.  Luckily I was dealing with honest people.  Since then, I've only accepted cash.  I might accept a cashier's check or certified check if I went to the bank with the buyer and verified that the check was real and the person had the cash to back it up.  But no way would I take any kind of check from a seller under any other circumstances, unless it was someone I know and trust.

I've bought 6 cars from private parties (2 from ads in the newspaper back when those existed and 3 from craigslist/autotrader, one from a family member).  I paid cash for 3 of them and cashiers checks for two of them, meeting the person at the bank for the transaction. The family member got a personal check.  I've also sold three cars, two via craigslist.  Got cash for two of them and the third was sold to a friend who I think paid me with a check.

It looks like the OP has already found a car, but here is my take if anyone is interesting.
1) Know what you're looking for.  When I buy cars, I tend to fixate on a specific make/model with a range of years.  Google for what the known issues with that car are and see if they've already been encountered.  For example, years ago I really wanted an Audi Allroad.  The airbag suspension was a known weakness.  I found one with an extended warranty where the compressor and one of the bags had been replaced already. The second front bag ended up being replaced within 6 months of my purchase under that warranty.  Check the forums for that car, someone may have done a checklist of things to look for.
2) Carfax.  Definitely worth it.  If it's been wrecked, even if not a salvage title, you may want to walk away depending on the severity.
3) Test drive.  I've never had problems with the sellers allowing me to drive the car, sometimes they ride along, but not always.
4) Get a professional inspection.  You probably need to have given them a firm offer and a deposit before they'll let you do that. (Note, I have not done this myself. lol)
5) Check the title against the VIN on the car.  I screwed myself on that one 25+ years ago when buying an old used car.  Probably less of an issue now, but on the car in question it was two pop rivets to remove the VIN and it wasn't until years later I discovered that not only was the VIN missing, but the title had an extra digit from what it should have.
6) Check your state laws on whether you need the title to be notarized when you buy.
7) Depending on your comfort level, meet in a public place to view the car, especially if you're walking around with a pocket full of Benjamins.
8) If the car is > than $5k, I'd rather pay with a cashier's check, so I've gone to see the car with about $1,000 in cash for a deposit.  Get a receipt for that deposit.
9) As others have said if there is anything hinky in the communication (story changing, poor communication, don't have the title, etc) just walk away.
10) I've never bought a car that had a loan on it, so I'm not sure how to deal with title issues. (They need to pay it off to get the actual title, which they might not be able to do without your money, which you might not want to give them without getting the title immediately.)

When selling, I've only sold cars cheaply at the end of their lives, so I've been pretty open.  That said, I've gotten cash for all of them, except the one I sold to a friend.  Again depending on your comfort level, you may want to meet at a public place like a bank parking lot. Maybe bring a friend/spouse. Have your title ready and with you when you show the car.  Take lots of pictures in good light (amazes me that people advertise on craigslist with one exterior photo).  Bring a carfax report of your own car (two of the cars I bought the owners provided this and it really gave me more confidence). If they test drive, check their license and ride with them.  The only contact I give on craigslist is email when I'm selling until I get comfortable with them.  You will likely have some scammer reach out to you saying they want to wire or paypal you the money and have a freight company pick it up.  Say no, you only deal with people in person.

Now, is it worth doing this on both sides?  Absolutely!  You're talking thousands on each end of the transaction for not much work. When I bought my german sports car years ago before finding MMM, I paid at the high end for private party, but that was still thousands less than the low end of a dealer sale.  I hate dealing with sales people so I'd much rather buy from a private party.  Maybe I've just been lucky but I've never had a bad experience except for the old car with the missing VIN.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #37 on: October 30, 2018, 05:05:27 AM »
10) I've never bought a car that had a loan on it, so I'm not sure how to deal with title issues. (They need to pay it off to get the actual title, which they might not be able to do without your money, which you might not want to give them without getting the title immediately.)

IMHO, there are too many fish in the sea to mess with that hassle.  I'd just move on to the next prospect.

radram

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2018, 05:53:24 AM »
10) I've never bought a car that had a loan on it, so I'm not sure how to deal with title issues. (They need to pay it off to get the actual title, which they might not be able to do without your money, which you might not want to give them without getting the title immediately.)

IMHO, there are too many fish in the sea to mess with that hassle.  I'd just move on to the next prospect.

We did this once. Once you decide to buy, meet at the location of their loan company. Go in together, they write a letter and you bring that to DMV.  A little extra hassle but not a deal breaker.

radram

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #39 on: October 30, 2018, 06:17:59 AM »
For those that have bought from private sellers, do any of you bank through your brokerage? How did you pay? I use Ameritrade, which doesn't issue cashier's checks as far as I can tell. Do apps like Venmo fill such a need?

I've only bought from a private seller once.  I paid cash. 

I've also sold several cars to private buyers.  The first couple times I didn't really know what I was doing, and I accepted cashier's checks.  Luckily I was dealing with honest people.  Since then, I've only accepted cash.  I might accept a cashier's check or certified check if I went to the bank with the buyer and verified that the check was real and the person had the cash to back it up.  But no way would I take any kind of check from a seller under any other circumstances, unless it was someone I know and trust.

I've bought 6 cars from private parties (2 from ads in the newspaper back when those existed and 3 from craigslist/autotrader, one from a family member).  I paid cash for 3 of them and cashiers checks for two of them, meeting the person at the bank for the transaction. The family member got a personal check.  I've also sold three cars, two via craigslist.  Got cash for two of them and the third was sold to a friend who I think paid me with a check.

It looks like the OP has already found a car, but here is my take if anyone is interesting.
1) Know what you're looking for.  When I buy cars, I tend to fixate on a specific make/model with a range of years.  Google for what the known issues with that car are and see if they've already been encountered.  For example, years ago I really wanted an Audi Allroad.  The airbag suspension was a known weakness.  I found one with an extended warranty where the compressor and one of the bags had been replaced already. The second front bag ended up being replaced within 6 months of my purchase under that warranty.  Check the forums for that car, someone may have done a checklist of things to look for.
2) Carfax.  Definitely worth it.  If it's been wrecked, even if not a salvage title, you may want to walk away depending on the severity.
3) Test drive.  I've never had problems with the sellers allowing me to drive the car, sometimes they ride along, but not always.
4) Get a professional inspection.  You probably need to have given them a firm offer and a deposit before they'll let you do that. (Note, I have not done this myself. lol)
5) Check the title against the VIN on the car.  I screwed myself on that one 25+ years ago when buying an old used car.  Probably less of an issue now, but on the car in question it was two pop rivets to remove the VIN and it wasn't until years later I discovered that not only was the VIN missing, but the title had an extra digit from what it should have.
6) Check your state laws on whether you need the title to be notarized when you buy.
7) Depending on your comfort level, meet in a public place to view the car, especially if you're walking around with a pocket full of Benjamins.
8) If the car is > than $5k, I'd rather pay with a cashier's check, so I've gone to see the car with about $1,000 in cash for a deposit.  Get a receipt for that deposit.
9) As others have said if there is anything hinky in the communication (story changing, poor communication, don't have the title, etc) just walk away.
10) I've never bought a car that had a loan on it, so I'm not sure how to deal with title issues. (They need to pay it off to get the actual title, which they might not be able to do without your money, which you might not want to give them without getting the title immediately.)

When selling, I've only sold cars cheaply at the end of their lives, so I've been pretty open.  That said, I've gotten cash for all of them, except the one I sold to a friend.  Again depending on your comfort level, you may want to meet at a public place like a bank parking lot. Maybe bring a friend/spouse. Have your title ready and with you when you show the car.  Take lots of pictures in good light (amazes me that people advertise on craigslist with one exterior photo).  Bring a carfax report of your own car (two of the cars I bought the owners provided this and it really gave me more confidence). If they test drive, check their license and ride with them.  The only contact I give on craigslist is email when I'm selling until I get comfortable with them.  You will likely have some scammer reach out to you saying they want to wire or paypal you the money and have a freight company pick it up.  Say no, you only deal with people in person.

Now, is it worth doing this on both sides?  Absolutely!  You're talking thousands on each end of the transaction for not much work. When I bought my german sports car years ago before finding MMM, I paid at the high end for private party, but that was still thousands less than the low end of a dealer sale.  I hate dealing with sales people so I'd much rather buy from a private party.  Maybe I've just been lucky but I've never had a bad experience except for the old car with the missing VIN.
Great advice.

#2. Just beware of what a "clean" carfax really means. No REPORTED accidents. It does not mean nothing was repaired that was covered by insurance. I will look at one, but I am not willing to pay for one.
#4. To me, this creates a false sense of security. I would not pay money for one. If you do not agree with me, ask your mechanic for a warranty. They will say no. That should tell you something.
#7. I will often say something in the first minute or so like "we are very near my bank", or something of this sort. I never give them the idea that the cash is with me in case the car sale is just a cover for some shenanigans. I never meet someone that requires to see cash for you to see their car.
#8. I would never accept any paper other than cash unless I was in the bank where the paper was written, and they will cash it for no fee.
#9. I always ask if the person I am dealing with is the named owner on the title. I will not buy a vehicle any other way.

Just Joe

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Re: Purchasing a used car from a private seller - what to look out for?
« Reply #40 on: October 30, 2018, 12:35:35 PM »
My husband goes to the wrecking yard to get a vehicle. They are there because they had full coverage insurance. He is a great mechanic but even if he wasn't, I'd go there anyhow. Even if I was single and needed to pay for whatever needs to be done. No surprises, they seem more honest than the typical private seller. JMHO

Edited to add: I call it the wrecking yard but it is likely called Auto Recyclers. They have plenty of very nice cars we've done well with. It's just as simple to work on a BMW as it is any other car. The parts cost about the same too. Decades ago, this wasn't the case.

Yep - look online at CoPart auctions. A friend I know does this. Lots of work to get them right again sometimes.