Buying a used car from a private party? Be smart and safe!4. Ask straight out if the seller is the owner.
If you're talking to the owner, ask how long he or she has owned the vehicle.
Answers like "I'm selling it for a friend," or "It's my grandmother's car," or "I've had it a couple months" are warning flags. At a minimum, it means the seller may not know much about the car's history. At worst, the seller may be flipping salvaged cars for profit - curbstoning.
5. Check the address.
Although many genuine private sellers are reluctant to meet at their homes for legitimate safety reasons, the vehicle owner's address will be on the registration and title. Don't hand over your money until you've confirmed that the addresses on the registration and title are, in fact, the seller's address.
If the purchase requires a significant amount of money, you might even want to drive by the address listed to make sure it's real, and to form a better sense of how the vehicle was cared for.
6. Ask to see the vehicle's maintenance records.
Because curbstoners are all about flipping used cars for profit, they seldom have the maintenance records for the vehicles they sell.
If the seller doesn't have the maintenance records, then ask where the work was done. Contact that repair facility and ask to see the maintenance and repair records.
While you're checking the records, don't overlook the obvious: make sure the name shown as the vehicle's owner matches the person you're dealing with.
If the current owner has had the vehicle for only a short time, or lacks information about the repair history, try contacting the previous owner.