How to Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller | My Advice when Buying a Used Car

Buying a car Ahmed Mazen 26 January 2021

Buying a used car from a private seller can be one of the best ways to save money but it comes with risks. I’ll give my advice on how to buy a used car from a private seller to help you navigate the process!

0:00 - Intro and Used Car Fact!

The biggest risk when buying a used car from a private seller is you don’t know if the person treated the car well or if the person is trying to sell it because of an issue with the used car.

It's kind of a risk reward situation when buying a used car. Sure I can save money but is it worth the car breaking down?

A good portion of my family has an automotive background ranging from being a car technician to vehicle inspector. So, a lot of these tips on how to buy a used car from a private seller come with a great deal of credibility from them.

Fast fact of the day: About 75% of cars sold, are used vehicles

If you found that fact interesting, please hit that like button, but let's get into these tips on buying a used car.

1:06 - Getting a VIN check/Carfax
Every used car has a number called a VIN number that basically identifies the car and is unique to just that car and tells the ownership history, if its been in accidents and basically the history of the vehicle.

These reports can range from $30 to $50 depending on how many you get but it's well worth it. If I know that the ownership of the used car has changed hands a few times, then chances are the current owner doesn’t know EVERYTHING about the used car I’m about to buy.

He could have maintained the car very well but the previous owner may not have.

Now the advice I always go with is if you’re going to buy a used car from a private seller, is it is best to buy a car that only has one owner, which is the person you’re buying from.

These reports will tell you if the car has been in any major accident or not. Sometimes find a good deal on a car that’s been in a major accident, but unless you’re really into cars I would generally recommend just getting a car that hasn’t been in one.

Now super important disclaimer when it comes to using the vin number and any carfax. It will not tell you everything about the car. For example, if I run into a curb and have to replace a part of my car, I could replace it myself without reporting anything. Or, I could just not even replace it. Which means, just because a car doesn’t have a listed accident doesn't mean it hasn’t been in one.

2:54 - Ask A LOT of Questions
You’d be surprised how much someone may be willing to tell you simply by asking them.
Here’s a list of good questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller

What is the status of the title?
Why are you selling?
How was the car maintained?
Do you have the maintenance records?
How many miles a day or week are you driving this car?
Does the car have a spare tire and jack?
Do you mind if I take the car in for a mechanical inspection?
What features don’t work the way they’re supposed to?

And, if the person gets upset, be polite, walk away from the deal. There's always another car to buy out there.

5:24 - Do a thorough Test Drive

Once again, this may seem obvious when answering how to buy a used car from a private seller, but people don’t test drive the car long enough!

And not just that, but test drive the car in a variety of settings. Take it in a parking lot, drive on a highway and then back to a low speed. Sometimes issues with used cars don’t appear right away. For example, a used car can work just fine at low speeds in a parking lot. But, you take that same car on a highway to high speeds and back down to low speeds, it may stall or show some problem that wasn’t there before.

Take your time and try to put the amount of money you’re spending into the time it takes to earn it. It probably takes a while to earn enough to buy a $5k used car, yet you only spend less than an half an hour looking into the car. That doesn’t seem like it would be wise to do when buying a used car.

7:16 - Inspect The Used Car

Now this can either be done yourself or you can take it to a mechanic.If you don’t know much about cars, maybe you know someone who does, you can ask them to come along and you can pay them. But, you may not have that as an option so you have to pay a bit more an actual mechanic or car technician can take a look.

Look for things like changes in the paint color or if something looks new. For example, if the car door is a slightly different red than the rest of the car, the door may have been replaced or repainted.

12:29 - Take Your Time
There are always more used cars to buy out there. Don't rush the process when buying a used car.

Hopefully you found these tips useful on how to buy a used car from a private seller. If you have any questions on the use car buying process, feel free to comment down below.

Congrats on making it to the end. You win I guess!