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Private car purchases unveiled: Your 8-step guide to a successful transaction

Posted 5/13/24

(BPT) - So, you’re ready to buy your next car. Are you considering going through a private seller? If you haven’t bought a car from a private seller before, you may have some concerns and …

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Private car purchases unveiled: Your 8-step guide to a successful transaction

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(BPT) - So, you’re ready to buy your next car. Are you considering going through a private seller? If you haven’t bought a car from a private seller before, you may have some concerns and questions. To help you navigate the private seller market, Autotrader — one of the most comprehensive vehicle marketplaces — offers the following eight tips to help you purchase your next car with ease.

1. Do your research

Before you begin looking at car listings, do your homework. Narrow down which cars fit your needs and lifestyle. Once you have a handful, research common issues and going rates for specific car makes, models and years. Arming yourself with this information will allow you to enter the world of private car sales with confidence.

2. Create a budget

Once you know which cars you’d like, create a budget and stick to it. If you don’t have a clear picture of your finances, take the time to track your income and expenses. Once you know how much money you have to work with, set a realistic price range and see which cars on your list make the cut.

Remember, your car expenses are more than just the monthly loan payment and average monthly fuel costs. You’ll also need to account for car insurance, scheduled maintenance and other related expenses. You can use a handy tool like Autotrader’s monthly car payment calculator to factor in all your costs.

3. Find private seller listings

Locating private seller car listings isn’t as difficult as you may think. Do a deep dive into the classified ads, neighborhood chat boards and online platforms. If you’ve narrowed down your choice to a specific model, a website like Autotrader can help you find options based on a make, model and year.

4. Ask the right questions

When you find a car with potential, it’s time to contact the seller. As you discuss the vehicle, come prepared with a list of questions. During your chat, find out why the owner is selling the car, how long they’ve had it and where they got it. Ask if they can provide a vehicle history report that details any accidents and repair history as well as maintenance history and if any warranties still apply.

5. Arrange a trial run

If the seller answered your questions to your satisfaction, your next step should be setting up an appointment to see the car and get behind the wheel. During your test drive, you can experience how it handles and if the vehicle matches your expectations. Make sure to note any strange noises and odd vibrations.

When meeting with a private seller, insist on meeting in a public place during the day and bring a friend or relative. You’ll feel more secure, and your buddy can help you spot any problems or concerns you may have missed.

6. Schedule a professional inspection

Even if the car seems to be in the exact condition the seller specified, ask to take it to a third party, like your trusted mechanic, for a professional inspection. A professional inspection can help you detect any problems that might not be obvious just by looking at or driving the car. Inspections tend to cost $100-$150, and they’re well worth the cost for your peace of mind.

7. Negotiate price and discuss payment

Negotiating the price of a car can sound intimidating, but it’s a common part of the buying process when purchasing a vehicle from a private seller. Remember, be respectful but firm. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price is outside your budget or you feel that the car’s condition doesn’t reflect its value.

If you agree to purchase the car, talk with the seller about how they’d like to receive payment. There are many ways you may be able to pay for a car, including cash, certified checks, bank transfers and digital payment platforms, just to name a few.

8. Don’t forget the paperwork!

Finally, make sure all the paperwork is in order. The seller must transfer the vehicle’s title to the buyer to complete the transaction. Check your state’s requirements for bill of sale, car registration, and any applicable taxes or fees.

Simplifying car buying (and selling!)

You can simplify buying from a private seller by using Private Seller Exchange on Autotrader. Private Seller Exchange on Autotrader will verify the seller’s identity, provide a platform to chat with the seller, allow you to schedule a test drive, make offers online, confirm a car’s ownership and accident history, and provide a secure payment platform. Best of all, once you’ve purchased the car, you can use Private Seller Exchange on Autotrader to arrange car pickup or have it delivered to your door!

By using Private Seller Exchange on Autotrader, you can proceed with a private car sale with convenience, security and ease. Sellers can also use the platform to list and sell their cars!

Are you ready to buy your next car? Use these 8 tips to make purchasing from a private seller a breeze. Visit Autotrader.com/Marketplace for more information and to view a “How It Works” video.