How to buy a used car.

Purchasing a Used Car from a Private Party
by Monty Hawkins

Purchasing a used car allows you to have a quality automobile without paying for all of the depreciation. I choose not to buy from the dealership as they are professional salesmen and make their money by negotiating the highest price possible. The private seller is looking to get fair market value.


Anyone can follow the steps below and purchase a quality vehicle while saving money.

1. Start with plenty of time.

One of the most important things when purchasing a car is to start with plenty of time. Having time on your side puts you in a much better position all throughout the buying process. You are not rushed and can avoid making a decision you may regret later.

2. Determine your budget, and then stick to it.

You must determine is how much money you want to spend. Honestly assess your budget. Paying with cash is ideal, however if you are going to take out a loan you must determine how much money you can afford. For a loan I recommend getting pre-approved for a 3-4 year loan at a local credit union. Doing this helps you know upfront what the monthly payments will be. You can calculate the cost of monthly payments by using a simple loan calculator. Do not focus in on monthly payments, but on the total cost of the car.


3. Decide on a car in your price range.

Sometimes people don't know where to start and that is okay. If you don't have a specific year/make/model you are looking for ask friends, family, and coworkers what they enjoy. You can read opinions from real owners at the Edmunds.com. Enter the make model and year at the top of the webpage and then scroll to ‘What Others are Saying’ and click on ‘See All 213 reviews’. Read many reviews to get a fair representation.


Once you find a car you are interested in you can check car values at Kelly Blue Book to find what you can expect to pay. If the car you are looking for is out of your price range, you may have to look for an older model to stay within budget. Don’t be afraid to look at other cars which fall in the same class (i.e. Honda Accord, expand to include Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima). The total mileage the car has can affect the price. The fewer the miles the more the car is going to cost.


Before you move on to the next step, decide on a car which will fit in your price range. This will protect you from purchasing outside of your budget.

4. Start looking through online classifieds.

Once you have decided on a specific year make and model combination which fits your budget it is time to start looking. This step takes me the longest, be patient. Craigslist is one of the more well known websites for used cars.  Choose 'Car and Trucks by Owner' to avoid looking through dealers ads. Regional online classifieds can be helpful. For example in the state of Utah, almost everyone uses KSLCars.com. The first time you go online to look you will not find the exact car which is right for you. Be patient and be willing to check back periodically.

I have two caveats about online classifieds. The first is to be wary of deals which are too good to be true. If it is too good to be true, it is a scam. The second is to avoid a car with a restored/salvage title. If the ad doesn’t say if it is a restored/salvage title, ask the seller. In my experience most sellers are upfront and honest about this.


When you find a car which interests you, email or call the seller to ask some questions. My standard questions include why are they selling the car, what is their favorite aspect about the car, is there anything wrong with the car, does it have a clean title, how many miles does it have, what is the asking price, and any other pertinent questions.


5. Set up an appointment to test drive the car.

Bring a friend with you to test drive the car. They will provide a second opinion and a voice of reason. Meet the seller and ask about the car. Find out what they like and don’t like about it. Ask if the car was driven by a smoker or if someone transported a pet inside of it. The smell may be masked for a few days, but when the true odor comes out you will regret your purchase. If you have any concerns about the seller don’t buy a car from them.


If you are initially interested by what you see, take the car for a test drive to see if you like how it handles. Test it on the freeway. Test it on a winding hilly road. Drive it for at least fifteen minutes. Remember you will be driving this car for a while. Listen for abnormal engine noise, rattles, and squeaks.


6. Have the car mechanically inspected by the dealership.

This is one of my favorite steps. When you find a car you are seriously considering, have it inspected at the dealership. For around $60 you can get the same inspection the dealership gives to the used cars they sell. Often the dealer will provide you with a copy of the vehicle history report if you ask. It includes negative history on the car (accidents/stolen/floods).


The dealer will also tell you which repairs need to be done. This will help you determine any repair costs. You can use this to get the seller to lower the price of the vehicle or to arrange for the repairs. This avoids discovering defects after the vehicle is your full responsibility.
7. Negotiate a price and seal the deal.

If you want to buy the car let the seller know you like the car, but you need a day or two to talk it over with your spouse/significant other/parents. This will buy you some time and let you think clearly about the deal at hand. Base your offer on the asking price, fair market value, and any necessary repairs. Once you come up with a counter offer and agree on a price you can sign the contract.


Once you have signed a contract you own the car. Congratulations. I hope this helps when it comes time for you to purchase your next car. If you have any feedback, feel free to comment below.
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68 comments

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Ann Burkett
AUTHOR
November 10, 2013 at 9:01 PM delete

Perhaps this is a good idea if you know the seller personally or if someone you trust refers him.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
November 16, 2013 at 9:56 AM delete

This is a great article. I can see how it would help people save hundreds or thousands over what they would pay at the dealership. Thanks for posting this helpful information.

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Asif Baig
AUTHOR
November 20, 2013 at 9:03 PM delete

I think your article will give those people a good reminding. And they will express thanks to you later.Saffran International Co Ltd is a used vehicle exporter based in Tokyo-Japan, dedicated to being your source of quality Distributor of used Japanese vehicles.

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Evie Fisken
AUTHOR
November 25, 2013 at 1:25 AM delete

Nice post.There are lot of benefits of buying a used car .Used car is cheap in price , you don't have to give vat for it ,but if you buy a new car you have to give vat on its price, you don't need to license it if it has previous license . Thanks to share this valuable post .
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aliah
AUTHOR
January 21, 2014 at 2:52 AM delete

I think buying a used car is good idea. when you are looking to buy used car you should take auto expert advice. auto expert can help a lot in buying good used car.
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Jack Deni
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January 28, 2014 at 11:48 PM delete

Hi,

Luxury used cars for Sale has been decided based on the appearance and the gas mileage, opting for a used car would surely guarantee the value along with the reliability. Thank you....

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Adriano Clark
AUTHOR
February 18, 2014 at 1:50 AM delete

I love this blog because it is user friendly with appreciative information, It is also a big help for those who would like to buying a used car. There are a lot of benefits of buying a used car.

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February 26, 2014 at 5:19 AM delete

I really appreciate you for giving your valuable time to write this post. I can see how it would help people saving few bucks in their account by following your useful post on selling their used cars Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

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Stacey Beck
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April 21, 2014 at 1:40 PM delete

My husband has finally convinced me that we need to buy a truck. It's something he's wanted for a long time. We found a used one that is in great condition and we would be dumb not to get it.

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May 29, 2014 at 9:02 PM delete

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June 4, 2014 at 11:49 PM delete

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June 16, 2014 at 9:45 AM delete

Hello
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Shelly
AUTHOR
June 17, 2014 at 10:48 PM delete

Mechanically testing the car and having a test drive is really important of you are buying a used car as many of the times any engine related problem can make your deal a total loss. Also ensure the authenticity of the dealer or the seller before buying the car and as "Ann Burkett: said its always a good idea to buy a car from someone whom you know personally.

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June 27, 2014 at 6:43 AM delete This comment has been removed by the author.
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July 1, 2014 at 4:04 AM delete

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jyoti soni
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July 2, 2014 at 2:29 AM delete

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Seamus Lowe
AUTHOR
July 17, 2014 at 1:16 PM delete

It's also a good idea to have your own mechanic look over the car you're looking at. Having a mechanic you trust tell you about the car will help you know exactly what you're going to need to repair. Make sure to have multiple opinions about any car.
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Jimmy Davis
AUTHOR
July 25, 2014 at 7:35 PM delete

Yeah, I think it is a great idea, but it is rather hefty. I bought my mini trucks from a recommendation of a friend.

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Amber Johnson
AUTHOR
August 1, 2014 at 11:33 AM delete

I am looking into buying a used car. I don't much about buying cars so I appreciate your tips. I agree that it is smart to decide on a price range before you go. I could see myself spending more than I want by not deciding on a price range before.

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August 11, 2014 at 9:52 AM delete

I think it's definitely important to do all the research you can on a used car before buying it. A friend of mine recently bought a used car that didn't run because it had been previously totaled. She didn't know that, and after a week it stopped working. Do your research. That way you don't waste your money on a used car that doesn't function. http://www.gagelsautosales.com

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Jerry Boggs
AUTHOR
August 18, 2014 at 10:06 AM delete

I am going to purchase a used car, and this article has been very helpful. I appreciate the advice on negotiation because that is something I struggle with. Maybe I can bring along someone to speak for me.

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September 11, 2014 at 12:39 PM delete

You never know the power of negotiation until you master it! You can really knock some numbers down on a used car. Hopefully we can get a good deal on the car we are going to buy for our son.
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Thomas Watson
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October 23, 2014 at 9:11 AM delete

Good tips. You should also be willing to walk away. Prepare ahead of time and don't let your emotions get you in over your head.

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Calvin James
AUTHOR
November 21, 2014 at 8:05 PM delete

I bought a "new" used car last year and sold my broken down Civic. I was able to get $500 towards my next car! I was pretty excited about how much I got for a car that didn't run. Most people think their only option is paying someone to come pick up their car if it breaks down. As long as you have a trailer, this doesn't have to be the only option! http://www.upicksave.com/123-sell-us-your-car/

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December 11, 2014 at 6:58 PM delete

Thanks for the awesome tips. I've been looking for a used car for the longest time. I really haven't had that much luck so far, and I guess that's why I'm here. Do you think buying a used car is cheaper than buying a new car, at least in the long run?

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December 18, 2014 at 1:19 AM delete

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Megan Jones
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December 30, 2014 at 11:19 AM delete

Having a budget is very important. Buying the car is only the beginning of finances for a car. Owning and taking care of the car is something that should really be heavily considered. My family has had good luck with owning used cars, but that is not the case for everyone. Doing your research and knowing what kind of car you are getting is the best way to decide what kind of car you want to buy.
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Slarty Melger
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January 5, 2015 at 2:44 PM delete

I've done the inspection thing before while I was "test driving" the car. I said that I wanted to take it on the freeway to see how it would handle, then I took it to an auto shop. They confirmed my doubt saying that it was bound to break down soon. It was a good investment to take it there.
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January 7, 2015 at 2:04 AM delete

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david
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January 18, 2015 at 10:02 PM delete

I am going to buy used car houston but I don't know which is the best option for me as it will be my first vehicle ever.

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Zach Thalman
AUTHOR
January 22, 2015 at 5:46 PM delete

It is really important to take the car out for a test drive. You don't want to get a car that has problems or isn't working properly. One of the first things I learned when getting a used car was to take the car out for a drive. It is also important to see if you like the feel of the ride. http://www.miraclemilemotors.com/aboutus.aspx

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January 30, 2015 at 9:06 PM delete

Taking the car for a test drive is one of the most important things you can do. While the car may look great, you will only really get a feel for the car's quality when you take it out for a test drive. You are making a big financial decision, do you best to leave your desires at the door and making a purely logical decision. http://www.carcraftautosales.com

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Tom Hudson
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January 30, 2015 at 11:59 PM delete This comment has been removed by the author.
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Tom Hudson
AUTHOR
January 31, 2015 at 12:00 AM delete

Test drive must be on top priority before you make any decision to buy a vehicle. Only after drive you will come to know if its comfortable and easy to drive. So also take vehicle for test drive before buying it.

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Rachel Benson
AUTHOR
January 31, 2015 at 9:18 AM delete

I really like your advice to have the car mechanically inspected before purchasing a used car. It seems like a good idea to make sure there are no major mechanical issues before spending all your money on a car. My brother is looking for a used car and he doesn't have a budget or a specific idea of what car he wants. I think that has made the process really hard. http://www.LeeKinstle.com

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February 6, 2015 at 10:22 AM delete

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February 24, 2015 at 1:21 PM delete

I like your tips about having the car inspected before purchasing it. It's also good to test a bunch of different cars, including the one you actually want. You want to be able to compare different cars and how they run. Of course, I've also heard about certified used cars. If you can find one of those cars, you wont' need the inspection. http://www.usedcarskingsport.com

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James Martin
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February 27, 2015 at 2:25 AM delete

I like your post very much. You mentioned a plenty of information regarding How to buy used car? I also want to tell you one thing before buying a used car be assured that the dealer provides you a certified cars.
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March 2, 2015 at 3:44 AM delete

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wesley gibson
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March 11, 2015 at 4:15 AM delete

Thanks to share these amazing tips with us. I like your advice when we have not high budge to buy new car then select used car. Thanks again to advice How to buy used car and what's the point before buying used car. :)

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March 28, 2015 at 11:07 PM delete

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May 29, 2015 at 7:25 AM delete

Nice post and very valuable information for all . thanks for sharing with us .

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Anonymous
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July 7, 2015 at 2:56 AM delete

I don't think is the best Idea. Even if you know the seller they won't tell you exact information that you need to know. I suggest to read some history reports if you google or pay as little as $4.99 like I did from VinAudit. Found this 50% off discount coupon online http://www.vinaudit.com/coupon=JQEBL50OFF the cheapest price for complete report that I know. I hope it helps.

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July 24, 2015 at 9:49 AM delete

Buying a used car is great because when repairs do inevitably pop up, you'll have the extra cash you saved to pay for them.

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August 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM delete

Excellent tips! Thank you for sharing

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Cali Jordan
AUTHOR
September 18, 2015 at 12:37 PM delete

It is really very good tip when search a Cars for Sale, thanks for sharing.

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September 28, 2015 at 11:24 AM delete

Hardest thing to do, but really important, is to stick to a budget. Set a price and then stick to it as close as possible. Sometimes there might be a great reason to change price, but in the long run, making that decision will help a lot of situations that can go wrong.

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troms harry
AUTHOR
September 29, 2015 at 7:20 AM delete

After all car will be yours, then before investing the money should inspect all things properly... and i also recommend to check previous records of that car you are going to buy like, is car has accidental, taxes, confirm ownership...etc

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October 7, 2015 at 12:02 AM delete

I like your post, I am also planning to buy an used car soon but I was scared of the fraud issues rises after the deal of vehicle. your post gave me a vision that what I should check before buying car. I also heard about Revs Check But I don't have that information about it, please tell me about it if you know about thick check service. Thanks.

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January 15, 2016 at 3:23 AM delete

Purchasing a used car from a private owner is not a bad idea if you know the seller personally. You can save hundreds of dollars that you pay over dealership and you don’t have to give VAT on it. But you have to act smartly. You can also take auto expert advice before finalizing the deal. Don’t forget to check car’s warranty.

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