Buying a used car from a private party? Be smart and safe!7. Test-drive the vehicle thoroughly.
Don't just give the car a road test; most cars can be made to work fine for a ten-minute drive. Try getting on the freeway, passing, and stopping. Find a parking lot and drive carefully in a circle to the left and right to reveal steering issues. Speed bumps are great tools for revealing worn (and costly) suspension components.
Make sure all the systems work, including the air conditioning and heater.
Finally, check all the electronics and accessories: the CD player, all the power windows, and the central locking system.
Having a second set of eyes along can prove helpful in checking turn signals, brake lights, and whether the car tracks and stops in a level, straight line.
8. Have the car inspected.
Most mechanics will look over a car for a nominal fee, usually less than $100.
Although a CARFAX report is great, it only looks at what's documented. For instance, it might show that damage from a minor fender-bender had been repaired, but it can't possibly examine how well that repair was done. And, conversely, work that the owner did personally may not show up as part of the vehicle records.
This gap between documentation and reality becomes bigger when looking at high-mileage vehicles, older vehicles, restored or customized vehicles, and collectibles.
Also, it should be noted that a false VIN would produce a false report: one that belongs to the VIN plate, but not the rest of the car.
9. Remember: buy the seller before you buy the car.
If something sounds fishy, walk away. If something doesn't add up, walk away.
For instance, if they say the car's never been in an accident, but your mechanic's inspection turns up signs of body work - you've already been lied to. Walk away.
Buying a used car from its owner can be fun! There's the thrill of the hunt, the joy of finding what you want, and often the reward of a lower price as well. Just make sure that you're actually buying from the car's owner, and not a curbstoner. And drive a cream puff, not a rotten egg.