Buying a Car from a Private Owner

buying a car from a private ownerUsing classified ads in a newspaper to purchase a used car can be a tedious process. A buyer needs to thoroughly investigate each potential seller before making a final decision. Failing to do so can leave the buyer with a used vehicle that runs poorly or has undisclosed damage. Classified ads promising cheap cars may be offering an inferior product over those sellers who charge higher prices for better vehicles. Find the best quality auto insurance coverage for you by entering your ZIP code into our FREE comparison tool above!

Insuring a Used Vehicle

Obtaining valid auto insurance is still necessary before finalizing the purchase of a used car. It’s the responsibility of the private seller to make certain the purchaser has valid insurance before releasing the vehicle.

  • Finding affordable car insurance can be difficult for a consumer who has a previous history of accidents or significant traffic violations.
  • Many websites offer free information on obtaining the lowest possible rates by comparing the offers of several different auto insurance companies.
  • Enter your ZIP code to compare car insurance quotes for FREE.

Lack of Vehicle Warranty

Purchasing a used car from a private owner may require a consumer to accept the vehicle without any manufacturer’s warranty. This presents a significant risk for a car buyer — especially when purchasing a used vehicle from a classified ad.

  • If a warranty remains on the vehicle at time of purchase, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to verify that the coverage transfers, if the vehicle changes owners.
  • Without a warranty, the cost of any maintenance issues or part replacements for wear and tear come out of the purchaser’s pocket.
  • Ask to see the current owner’s repair records for the vehicle. Examining the documentation can help you determine if the car has chronic problems or has undergone major repairs in the past.

No Lemon Law Protection

Lemon laws are state regulations that protect car buyers from purchasing perpetually defective automobiles. The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act of 1975 is the federal version of state lemon laws, which protects all consumers across the United States.

  • If a consumer purchases a used car from a private seller, neither state lemon laws nor the federal lemon law protects the transaction. This means you have no legal recourse, if you purchase a used vehicle with a chronic defect from a private seller.
  • The consumer purchasing the vehicle accepts it in “as is” condition. A buyer can’t go back to the seller and demand he repair existing damage to the car after the sale takes place
  • In the absence of owner repair records, request a vehicle repair history from a private third-party vehicle history company. These records can verify the current owner’s vehicle repair/maintenance claims.

Visually Inspect the Vehicle

Visual inspection of a vehicle is necessary for more than simple damage assessment. Examining several key materials before purchasing a car from a private seller helps rule out potential legal pitfalls

  • Make certain the 17-digit VIN number on the vehicle’s dashboard and doors match. Differing VIN numbers on the same vehicle can indicate theft, according to
  • Examine the odometer readings on the dashboard and under the car’s wheel well. Two different odometer readings may indicate either an attempt to alter the vehicle’s mileage or a change in engine.
  • Request a sale history of the vehicle from the current owner. Reviewing this information allows a potential buyer to see how many times the car’s title changed hands. Sale history also contains odometer readings for each sale, which is useful for catching potential fraud.

Finalizing the Sale

Finalizing the purchase of a car from a private seller requires the buyer to obtain a Bill of Sale from the seller. This document serves as tangible legal evidence of the transfer of property and the sale amount.

  • To be legal, the car’s Bill of Sale must include the vehicle’s 17-digit VIN number, the seller’s name and address.
  • Verify the seller has the vehicle’s title. The title is necessary to ensure the vehicle’s registration is valid. Contacting the local department of motor vehicles with car’s registration and VIN number is usually sufficient to verify the title holder.
  • If the seller can’t produce the vehicle’s title, walk away from the deal.
  • A buyer’s local department of motor vehicles can also verify that the car’s title is clean. A “clean” title has no liens placed by creditors looking for money from the seller. Purchasing a vehicle with existing liens can leave the buyer in a fight over vehicle ownership with the seller’s creditors.
  • Don’t bring cash to the sale. Present the seller with a bank draft for the negotiated sale price.

Keys and Special Equipment

Obtain any extra key copies from the seller along with any special equipment included with the vehicle. Special equipment can include wheel lug keys to unlock lug nuts or a specialized jack to lift the vehicle during tire replacement. Equipment of this nature can also assist in vehicle maintenance and make it easier to keep the car running at optimal condition.

  • If a buyer makes improvements to a used vehicle, including adding safety features, the buyer’s auto insurance company may be able to grant her additional premium discounts
  • Never be afraid to shop around for better insurance rates. Most companies allow a potential buyer to enter her information and obtain a quote for FREE with no obligation to purchase

buying a vehicle from a private sellerConclusion

Finding a quality vehicle from a private seller is still possible. A consumer simply has to perform the necessary research and follow all buying steps to ensure a satisfactory experience. Rushing the process doesn’t help a consumer purchase a quality used vehicle. A legitimate seller won’t mind the consumer’s methodical approach. If the seller tries to rush the process, walk away and look for a more amicable sales experience. Be sure to enter your ZIP code into the FREE comparison tool below for a list of auto insurance rates that best fits you!

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