If you don’t want to buy a car from a dealership, you might as well start looking at private car sales. With this article we will try to offer all the relevant info regarding how you should handle the process of purchasing a car from an individual seller.
First of all, it would be best that you don’t call early in the morning or during dinnertime. Also, when you call, make sure that you already have a list of questions prepared for the seller. The most important things to verify are: year, model, general condition and mileage of the car you plan on purchasing. Don’t forget to ask for what reasons is the car up for sale. If you are pleased with the answers you get, set up an appointment.
Although “tweaking” the odometer is not as popular as it once was, you should check the condition of the pedals and driver’s seat to get a good estimation of how much the vehicle was used. You need to verify the car’s tires, especially the front ones. If the front ones are worn unevenly, the car needs some front end work – tires, tie rods, shocks, alignment and other similar jobs.
Get inside the car and start to jiggle the steering wheel back and forth, without firing up the engine. There should be less than 1-inch of play and no strange noises. If you do hear some noises, it means that the steering gearbox or the steering rack must be replaced.
If you plan on buying a FWD (front-wheel-drive) car, you’ll need to verify the CV joints (and boots) and if they are leaking grease or they are torn, the half-shaft and/or the boot should be replaced. You will also need to check up the car’s shocks by pushing the vehicle down 2-3 times and releasing at each wheel. The vehicle should go up – down – and stop. Do the same thing for the other three wheels.
Older cars are prone to rust and for this reason you should check under the rocker panels on the side of the vehicle to see if there is any rust. If it is, you must know that it is very hard and expensive to stop it. Another place where to look for rust would be at the floor of the passenger compartment and inside of the trunk.
Before taking the car for a test drive you must check to see the coolant which shouldn’t be brown. Needless to say that it shouldn’t be empty or have any brown sludge or residues. If the tank is empty it means that there is a coolant leak inside the power unit (cracked head or a blown gasket) which will cost you a bundle to fix.
When you start the car, the power unit should turn quickly and the vehicle should start easily. If you go to private car sales where you run into cars that have a rough engine start, it means that these vehicles might have a wide array of issues, starting with old spark plugs, plugged fuel filter or leaky air hoses. It would be best to avoid such cars.
When you are test driving the car, the brakes should not grind, squeal loudly or shake. However, some squeaking is normal for disc brakes. The car’s pedal brake should feel firm but not too hard.
Don’t forget to check the entire electric accessories, like locks, windows, seats, audio system, alarm and keyless entry. Verify the locking of the doors (manual and auto) as well as all the windows, opening them from the outside, inside, and closing.
After you start the engine of the car, turn on the heater and check out how long it takes before it starts to provide heat. Test the AC system by putting a meat thermometer in the center vent.
After you took the car for a test drive you should verify the state of the oil with the engine turned off. If it is black, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is bad. However, it should not feel gritty. Look under the oil cap – it should be clean. If you notice white foam under the oil cap, it means that there is coolant in the oil – very expensive to repair.
You will also need to have a look at the battery and if it looks old – it probably is, but nowadays batteries are very affordable. If the battery’s terminals are corroded it means that the current owner of the car didn’t maintain it very well. If the air filter is very dirty, the car may be affected as far as performance and fuel economy is concerned.
To find out if the car has been involved in any accidents, have a closer look at the gaps between the body panels. If they are uneven, it means that the repairs were not done professionally.
After you have checked all of the aforementioned and you like the car, you will need to make an offer. If possible, bring cash when you deal with the seller because you will have more chances of getting a better deal because most of the sellers are eager to finalize the transaction as soon as possible.
If you reach an agreement with the seller, he will need to give you the signed title. He also must fill out a bill of sale, saying that he (address + phone) sold the car to you (address + phone). If by any chance you will be pulled over on your way home by the police, this piece of paper will smooth things out.
It would be advisable to get a CARFAX or an Autocheck vehicle report. Many of the sellers already got one but if they don’t, you’ll only need the car’s VIN – vehicle identification number. In addition, it is recommended that you set up an appointment with a professional mechanic so that he can take a closer look.
If you have any other questions regarding private car sales, feel free to ask us and we will be more than happy to reply as soon as possible.
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