How To Buy a Car From A Private Seller
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When it's time to buy your next car, the excitement builds. You've got a wide array of vehicles to choose from, whether you want a sports car, an SUV, or a full-sized truck. You have the freedom to pick your favorite color and trim level and whether or not you want to buy new or used.
Buying a used car has the potential to save you big, possibly several thousands of dollars. A previously owned vehicle might be in nearly new condition yet cost more than $10,000 less than it did when the original owner first bought it.
Add to that the fact you can perform research and choose from sellers across the country without waiting on dealer inventory, and buying a used car makes more sense.
But what if you find just the vehicle you want and a private seller lists it? What are the advantages and downfalls of a private sale, and what should you be on the lookout for?
Let's look at the ins and outs of buying a car from a private seller in detail.
Buying a car used vs. new
Cars and trucks are a lot of fun however you look at it: the shiny paint, the powerful engines, the interesting drivetrains, the numerous high-tech features. Different makes and models have their unique appeal, whether from daring styling or excellent driving performance.
But in 2021, with the average new car costing over $45,000, buying one is a significant financial decision. While you may be attracted to a particular new vehicle, paying for it is a whole other story.
Conversely, in 2021, the average cost for a used car is about $25,000, offering a substantially lower price versus new vehicles. With recently made vehicles featuring exceptional build quality aided by the latest manufacturing methods, buying used and saving thousands of dollars makes good financial sense.
And even though a new vehicle comes with a factory warranty, when you buy used, you have the choice to buy an extended warranty, which offers many of the same benefits. Sometimes extended warranties even come with additional perks like roadside assistance or rental car reimbursement.
Though purchasing a used car comes with several benefits, who can you trust when it's time to buy? Even if an advertisement looks excellent, how can you know if it's legitimate? With Shift's expertise and experience selling used vehicles, you can rest assured your used car purchase will be good to go from the moment you take delivery. Shift offers fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. And at Shift, certified mechanics perform 150-point inspections on every vehicle sold, and you get a free Carfax report for the ultimate in transparency.
Your options when buying used
If you decide to buy a used car versus a new one, you'll have a few options on where to make your purchase.
One choice is going to a reseller specializing in used vehicles. They may have excellent know-how on the used market and selling pre-owned cars.
Another is reading through different advertisements posted by private parties who are looking to sell a vehicle on their own.
Steps to buying a used car from a private seller
If you choose to go the route of buying a used car from a private seller, there are several good practices to follow. These methods not only ensure you pay a fair price but also remain protected from purchasing damaged vehicles.
Before moving ahead with the process of locating the make and model you desire, determining your budget keeps you within a sensible financial framework.
The next step is choosing the vehicle you want. With so many great cars available on the used market, performing research helps you narrow down the ones that fit your needs. Once you've decided on the specific make and model for you, it's time to research advertisements, whether online or in print media, and locate ones you find appealing.
After you've found a few possibilities, making sure the prices are fair ensures sellers don't take advantage of you. Several online resources like Kelley Blue Book (KBB), the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), and Edmunds have used car pricing guides that provide market values based on a vehicle's condition, options, and mileage.
As you move closer towards making a decision, a particular vehicle might seem like it's in excellent condition and a great deal. However, pretty paint and new tires may be hiding other issues. Obtaining the vehicle history report from a trusted source like Carfax or Autocheck can warn you of any prior accidents, a salvage title, service records, etc the number of previous owners.
When you're buying a car privately, there comes a time where you'll meet the seller in person. Keeping yourself safe by bringing along a friend and meeting in a public place protects you against risky situations.
Taking a used vehicle for a test drive gives you a feel for its overall condition and whether or not it's truthfully advertised.
If the car’s history checks out, it drives well, and everything appears in order, you must complete several administrative steps to finish the sale. Though specific regulations vary from state to state, typical tasks include transferring the car title, obtaining a new registration, and paying sales tax.
Buying a used car can save you money, but sometimes it's a hassle. If you buy from a private party, you'll probably have to meet in person, taking up valuable time and running the risk of buying a previously damaged vehicle. But when you buy a used car from Shift, you have the reassurance of a fully inspected vehicle that's good to go, along with the convenience of completing the purchase from the comfort of your own home. Not only that, if you live in one of Shift's many service areas, a concierge will drive to you, letting you take a test drive before signing the papers. Shift also offers best-in-industry service contracts, so your vehicle runs strong mile after mile, year after year.
2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE (from $19,500)
Buying a car privately in summary
Buying a used car from a private seller can save you money versus buying new, and following a series of specific steps assures you of obtaining a fair price on a well-cared-for vehicle.
Researching current used car prices, accessing a vehicle history report, and taking a test drive are some of the good practices that make sure you purchase a quality vehicle.
If you decide to move forward with buying a used car from a private seller, be sure to read up on lemon laws in your state before you sign any bill of sale. Also, save yourself from fines and other legal snags by performing the necessary administrative steps like the title transfer, registering with the DMV, and paying sales tax. Or you can save yourself time and stress from the get-go by buying from Shift, as we take care of all of the legal paperwork for you.
We also offer a seven-day refund policy that allows you to return your vehicle within a week if you're not completely satisfied, no questions asked. That's reassurance that no private seller will offer, hands down.
2014 Volvo S60 T5 Premier (from $17,350)
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the author or Shift Technologies, Inc. Shift does not endorse or evaluate the accuracy of any claims made or data provided by third party sources referenced herein.
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All prices are based on vehicle availability and pricing as of
April 15, 2022
Pricing shown is not guaranteed and does not include taxes or other product fees.