5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

For many drivers, buying a used car from a private party is the only way to go. You don’t have to deal with a high pressure car salesmen; there’s less paperwork to complete; and there are no mind games to play. There’s just two people hoping for a great deal on a used car. One is buying, the other selling. Simple.

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As simple as it sounds, used car buyers can often feel left out in the cold. The Internet is filled with articles on how to play hardball with a professional car salesman, but what about when you’re trying to buy a car from your neighbor, a friend, or an everyday person you’ve never met? myAutoloan is here for you throughout the car-buying process, from research to financing.

Before handing over the cash to a private seller, ask these five questions to help make sure you end up with a good deal on a great used car.

Ask These 5 Questions Before Buying a Private Party Used Car

1. How many miles are on the odometer?

Used car sellers will typically include mileage in their ad, but if not, go ahead and ask this question before seeing the vehicle. Enter the mileage, make, model, year, and presumed condition of the used car into a site like TrueCar to gauge the value of the vehicle against the seller’s asking price. Depending on the situation, you could have instant negotiating ammunition! You can also research common problems with the vehicle make and model at different mileages, then ask the seller if they’ve already addressed them or seens signs of them surfacing.

2. Why are you selling the car?

This question helps you out in a few ways. One, it helps you gauge the seller’s urgency, and thus, how much wiggle room you might have with the asking price. Are they tight on cash? Selling for sentimental reasons? Already have a new car in the driveway?

If you’re dealing with a private seller who’s honest to a fault, you could be lucky enough to learn details about the car’s condition you wouldn’t otherwise notice. The seller might divulge that the car is a gas guzzler, isn’t reliable on long road trips, or the clutch sticks when releasing.

3. Have you had the car since it was brand new?

If you’re talking to the third, fourth, or fifth owner of the car, the information you get will only go so far. The more owners the car has had, the more incomplete the current seller’s info might be.

Play detective (and protect yourself) by ordering a CarFax Vehicle History Report or more thorough VinAudit Vehicle Report. You’ll get an instant vehicle history report with 60+ problem checks from VinAudit.com, an official provider for the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

If you’re not talking to the first or second owner of the vehicle, follow this question with, “Who did you purchase the vehicle from?” or “Where was the car bought?”

4. Do you have service records?

Unless you’re looking for a used car to tinker with and test out your own auto repair skills on, you want a car that’s been well maintained!

A CarFax report will include some service and maintenance records, but it likely won’t include everything, especially if the owner relied on “mom and pop” auto shops around town. Ask for receipts and evidence that maintenance was performed at regular, manufacturer-specified intervals. These receipts will usually note the odometer reading at the time of service, helping you verify the car’s history.

If the seller can’t produce any service records or even remember the last time they had the oil changed, it might be time for you to find a different used car to buy. You don’t want to wind up with a used car that’s unreliable and unsafe–no matter how cheap it is!

5. Can I have the vehicle inspected by my mechanic?

You had your home professionally inspected before you bought it. Why not do the same  with a used car? Sellers with nothing to hide won’t balk at a request like this. Sellers with something to hide, however, will resist.

Finance your used car purchase today!

Buying a used car from a private seller is a great move when it comes to saving money, and using myAutoloan for auto financing is a great move when it comes to saving time! If you’ve asked these five questions and found a reliable ride you can’t wait to drive, then apply for a private party auto loan. We’re here to help you buy your used car today.