When you decide to buy a car, you have a few options of where to start. You could buy through fleet sales, order a car from a manufacturer, or buying from a dealership. If you’re interested in buying a used car, you may want to purchase one from a private buyer, rather than going through a dealership.
Buying a used car from a private party will take a bit of effort on your part. You must make sure the car is in good condition, hasn’t been seriously damaged and isn’t stolen. When you buy it, you have to make sure the title is legally transferred. While this all may seem overwhelming, it really isn’t. People buy used cars from each other all the time.
In this article, we’ll help you figure out how much you can afford to pay, discuss contacting the seller, Part 3 recommends doing some research, and Part 4 shows you how to buy the car itself.
Part 1: Figure Out Your Budget
Step 1: Determine how much you can afford to pay for a car. Don’t spend so much on your new used car that you can’t afford to drive it, or pay rent. Look into cars that might be in your range.
Come up with a figure and don’t budge if the seller tries to negotiate a higher price.
Step 2: Find out if you can get financing. Unless you are prepared to pay cash for your new used car, you need to shop around for financing.
You will need some cash to buy the car, even if you are getting a car loan to pay for it. Plan to come up with 10% to 20% of the total value of the car plus money to pay sales tax and the registration fee.
Step 3: Check your credit score, if you are planning on financing. You can order one credit report on yourself per year for free.
Banks will use your credit score to determine whether or not they will give you a loan. If your credit score is less than 629, they may charge you a higher interest rate.
Part 2: Contact the Seller
Step 1: Call the seller of the car you want. Be sure to call during reasonable hours.
Step 2: Arrange to meet at a public place to take a look at the car. If you can’t meet in a public place, take someone with you. Never go alone to a personal residence to look at a used car.
Step 3: Look the car over carefully. Have the owner open the hood so you can take a look at the engine.
Check the oil and air filter. Whether or not these are clean can be a good indicator of how well the car has been maintained.
Step 4: Take the car for a test drive. Drive it on low-speed roads and take it on the highway. You want to make sure it runs good at low and high speeds.
Step 5: Don’t buy just yet. If you are satisfied with the vehicle, thank the owner and tell him or her you will let them know.
Get the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It is usually located on the dash up close to the edge of the windshield on the driver’s side.
Part 3: Do! Your! Research!
Step 1: Get a vehicle history report. There are multiple agencies that provide them. Following are the most commonly used options, listed in order from most complete to least complete:
- Carfax - $39.99 per report
- AutoCheck - $24.99 per report
- National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) – up to $10.00 per report
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – free
Step 2: Have the car checked over by a mechanic of your choosing. Do this before you give the seller any money.
Part 4: Buy Your Car
Step 1: Call the seller if everything checks out and you want the car. Arrange to meet at a public place again to pay for the car and do the paperwork.
Step 2: Get the signed title and a bill of sale from the seller. Take these papers to your local Department of Motor Vehicles to transfer ownership.
If you are getting a car loan, the bank or financing institution will tell you how to handle the transfer. Contact them as soon as you decide to get the car to find out how to proceed.