Buying Used Vehicles from Previous Owners

Tips when Buying Used Vehicles from Previous Owners

The prospect of buying a used car directly from the previous owner is an enticing one because it will be significantly cheaper than the alternatives. However, this decrease in price comes with its own set of risks which aren't as big a problem as when buying from a dealership. They mainly involve buying a lemon, a broken down car with no option of receiving a guarantee or your money back if the car breaks down a week after purchase.

It should be noted that not all cars for sale by owner are money pits. In fact, it is quite possible to find a true bargain this way, but only under certain conditions. By following these steps, you will substantially decrease the chances of driving away in a bad car.

  • Check the title history. Simply put, a car which does not come with a thoroughly detailed history should be avoided at all costs. In this situation, there is no way of knowing exactly what this car has gone through. The title history will provide valuable information for the vehicle such as if it was involved in accidents, if it has been marked as salvage, if it has been recalled etc.
  • Beware of flood damage. One of the biggest problems that a second-hand car could have is flood damage. If there was a point where floodwater had entered the car, this will almost guarantee future issues with it down the line. The most common problems will involve the car's electronics, but corrosion is also a big concern. There are several ways of detecting potential flood damage: first and foremost, this should be noted in the title history of the vehicle. If it isn't, a moldy smell inside the car, silt deposits inside the lights or a dirty waterline inside the trunk or engine compartment are also pretty good indicators.
  • Get a mechanical inspection. The best way to ensure that a vehicle is in good working condition is to have it inspected by a professional. Some sellers might object to this as it can be time consuming for them, so it would be appropriate to offer them a small compensation for their time.
  • Make sure it is emissions compliant. The regulations regarding emissions certification vary from state to state. However, you should ensure that the vehicle can pass such a test before buying it. Otherwise you might discover that you are required to make extensive repairs to the car before you are able to register it.