How to Buy a Car from a Private Seller
Automobile dealers are famous for having tricks up their sleeves to get you to buy a car. That is one reason it can be more relaxing to buy a car from an individual who has a relatively fixed price and doesn’t use all the high-pressure sales tactics. There are some challenges, too, with buying a car from a private seller. With dealers, the cars are all right there on the lot. With a private seller, you may have to travel all over town, and test drive many before finding the one you want.
Another issue is, if a car is in really good shape, or selling for a particularly good price, it will probably go fast. So, you need to be ready to act fast, which will be a lot easier if you get everything lined up before you start seriously car shopping.
Sites like Consumer Reports and cars.com review cars and can help you make a decision about which one is the best choice. They provide information like:
- Which cars have the most, or fewest, problems as they age?
- What issues the different models have over time.
- How much it costs to make repairs on a given type of car (it can be very different for different manufacturers).
- What is the resale value? If you had to sell the car, would it have retained its value, or would it have lost much of the value in a short amount of time? This depreciation can be very different between automobiles, and it will be important if you need a loan.
Once you’ve chosen a model or two, it’s time to go to a site like National Auto Dealers Association Guides or Edmunds to find out what prices you can expect in your area. You will usually type in your zip code, and the make, and model, mileage, and year of the car you’re looking to purchase. The site will give you a ballpark figure between what you might pay from a private party for a car in relatively rough condition to what you might pay at retail for a car in very clean condition.