If it sounds too be good to be true, it probably is.
Buying a car from a private party can be an adventure. Sometimes you might find exactly what you’re looking for at a great price, sometimes you get scammed, and often you just waste a ton of time. The primary goal of Car Saints is to keep you from making a mistake, and weeding out the disasters.
Setting up a used car inspection on Car Saints is definitely the easier way to go, but our goal is to help car buyers and sellers whether they choose to use Car Saints or not, and that includes those who choose to buy a car without getting a inspection. The following is a guide to help you know what to look and to look out for.
We’ll start by discussing some of the steps that you should take before setting up a meeting with a seller. These tips can help to keep you safe and protect you from scams.
Check with your local DMV to confirm the paperwork requirements to register a car bought from a private party. You’ll need to visit the DMV after purchasing the vehicle to have its registration switched to your name, and you’ll want to have the paperwork right the first time around.
Registration requirements and procedures vary by state, and sometimes even by county, so you’ll definitely want to get your info straight from the source.
Research for common problems that affect the specific year and model of car you’re looking at. You’ll often find guides to help you check for the most widely reported issues, no mechanical certification required. Car Complaints is a great resource for this.
Ask the seller of the car to provide the VIN for the vehicle before going to see it. You can confirm that the car has a clean title and check to make sure that it doesn’t have an accident record. You can also avoid stepping into a dangerous situation by confirming that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen.
Watch for warning signs in the vehicle history, and seek clarification when something seems off. If it’s had a new owner every year for the past half-decade, that may indicate that the car has been giving those owners trouble. Always ask for more information if the car has an accident report or is a salvage title (or just avoid these entirely). Cars that were used at rentals may have been more likely to be abused by uncaring drivers, so watch out for those as well. None of these are necessarily deal breakers, but they’re always worth inquiring about.
Contrary to what some believe, it’s not possible to look up sensitive information about the owner using the VIN. If the seller is extremely cagey about providing the VIN, they may simply be uninformed or they may have something to hide.
Call the seller to ask questions about the car. Speaking over the phone will give you another chance to sniff for any sketchiness, and is often more efficient than an endless train of emails. Ask the seller any questions you might have. You can’t rely 100% on the answers provided by the current owner, but often times they’ll answer honestly if you ask if the car has been in any accidents, if it has any current mechanical problems, or why they’re selling the car.
If you get a good feeling about the seller and your conversation, head out and check it out yourself. If you feel uncomfortable with this step, give us a call. We'll take care of setting up an appointment with the seller, the inspection, test drive and providing a unbiased report, just like this .