Buying a used car – Private Sellers

By | April 27, 2014

There has never been a better time to buy a used car. Due to the current economic climate prices of used cars have fallen dramatically. There are certainly some bargains to be had but for every bargain there is a dodgy motor too. Here are my tips for buying used.

Most consumers will hunt the small ads in their local free papers for bargain used cars, or maybe internet ads on popular sites such as PistonHeads or AutoTrader. The majority of these adverts will be for private sales.

Once you have found a car you would like to see it is time to make contact with the seller. Beware of adverts only offering a mobile or email. Always try to make contact via land line. Tell the seller you are interested in the car he has for sale, if he says which car he maybe a dealer so beware. Arrange to meet at the sellers address and take someone with you for security & company.

When you go to view the car you should consider the following tips. Buying used privately you are not protected legally. There is no part exchange, no warranty and no come back if things go wrong.

Research the car you are buying. What is standard equipment? Known problem areas? Used Prices? Sites such as Parker’s are very helpful in these areas.
Don’t view a car in darkness or bad weather (e.g. Rain).

When meeting the seller at his home ask to use his toilet, this will confirm if it is his address or just an empty house he has pulled onto the driveway of to sell the car.

Inspect the car in a logical manner noting any defects that can be used later when negotiating price. Start with the externals, bodywork, wheels, tyres, brakes before moving inside then finally onto engine bay.

Check the paperwork. Check the registration document details against the owners name & address (ask to see their drivers licence to confirm), Vehicle registration mark, vehicle identification number.

Check the service history. Is the service book stamped up to date and have checks been carried out in a regularly manner in line with mileage and age? When was the cambelt changed? When was the air con recharged?

Look at body panels closely. Mismatch in color or over spray onto other panels/trim could indicate the car has been resprayed. Has it been in a accident?

If you are happy with what you see take the car for a test drive, minimum 5miles to get the car warmed up. Try different types of road, low speed, high speed, bends and straights. Make sure you try all the gears, buttons, lights, pedals and leavers. Listen for any strange sounds, look for any warning lights on the dash, and smell for any strange odors.

If the test drive satisfies you I would always encourage and independent vehicle inspection from a company like The AA. This entails one of their mechanics checking the vehicle over to various levels (depending on purchased test) and providing a written report. Prices start from £135 but it could save you spending hundreds if you buy a car with a fault that could have been picked up.

You should also carry out a data check. This will tell such things as if there is outstanding finance on the car, if the car is stolen or if it has been written off by an insurance company.

Your inspection has come back good so now it’s time to negotiate price. We mentioned earlier looking for defects, now time to use to your advantage. Every scuffed alloy knock £30 of the asking price. Every dent £50 off and so on. Once you and the seller have agreed on a price it is time to settle up. Here is a handy receipt you should both fill in and keep as a record of the sale.