Some people prefer buying a used car from a private seller instead of purchasing one from a used car lot. When you buy from a private seller, you can ask specific questions about the car, and who knows the car better than the previous owner? Additionally, individuals are not as likely to know all the scamming tricks of the trade that used car lot salesman have perfected. You can look the owner right in the eye and get a feeling of trustworthiness as he talks to you about the car.
There are some important checks to go through as you look over the car you are thinking of purchasing. The ideal situation would be that you can take someone with you that knows a lot about cars and they can go through the checklist with you. If that’s not possible however, and you are on your own to check out buying a used car from a private seller, then you should write down and take a checklist with you. This will give the impression to the seller that you know what you are doing and that you can’t be easily scammed.
The following list covers some of the basic points that should be included in your checklist:
- Turn the front wheels all the way to one side so that you can inspect the tires for wear. If there is uneven wear along the inside and outside of the tire, it could indicate the need for front end work, which is relatively expensive.
- Ask the owner about issues they have had with the car and how they were solved or if there are still current issues. They may not tell you everything, but this is a start. A thorough exam and test drive will likely reveal any other current issues.
- While the car is not running, try to wiggle the steering wheel back and forth. Listen for noises and check that there is less than one inch of movement.
- Examine the underneath of the rocker panels on each side of the car to check for rust. It is very difficult to stop once it has started.
- Check that all lights both inside and outside the vehicle work, including turning lights and brake lights.
- Check that all locks on all doors work and that all windows can wind down all the way and then back up with no problems. This is especially important on cars with electric windows.
- Before you go on a test drive, check the fluid levels. Pay attention to the coolant. Tanks should not be empty and should be free of any kind of brown gunk, indicating serious and expensive problems.
- Take the car for a 30 minute test drive. Upon starting the engine, make sure that the airbag, engine oil and abs brake lights come on and then go off. The engine should turn over and start quickly and easily. Listen for a smooth running motor.
- During the test drive, check the heater, the fan at all speeds, the ac and the cruise control.
- How does the car feel to drive? A smooth ride with no pulling to one side and easy turning and maneuvering are also an important factor to consider when buying a used car.
They say that knowledge is power, and this is no truer than when you are buying a used car. Go prepared and ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to discuss any questions you may have about the car with the current owner.