Aaron Widmar
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8 Reasons Not to Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller

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When it comes to buying a used car, it’s not just about getting a good deal on the price. If you aim for the lowest cost you can find, that may lead you to a private transaction with a non-commercial seller, and you could be entering murky territory. Before you buy that car parked in someone’s front yard or search one out on Craigslist, consider these reasons to avoid a private purchase.

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There could be something wrong with the vehicle

Many people wait to sell their vehicle until the point that keeping it will cost them more than buying a new one, so it’s not uncommon for a seller to dump the vehicle when it needs a major repair or is on its last leg.

Private sellers don’t care about repeat business

Because a private sale is a one-time transaction, such sellers aren’t interested in customer service, reputability, customer satisfaction, or other factors that established businesses are, so you’re not guaranteed a positive experience from a private seller.

The seller doesn’t know much about cars

Unlike doing business with a car salesperson who works with and follows the ins and outs of the industry on a daily basis, a private seller may not know much about cars and won’t be very helpful in answering your questions.

It’s harder to document and track private transactions

Privates sales are less documented than business sales, so be careful entering into a cash-only transaction that lacks important paperwork or financial records. You don’t want the lack of a paper trail to come back to bite you.

Post-sale follow-ups are tricky

Unlike a business with a long-term, publicized address, private sellers are harder to trace in the years to come because they can move out of state, change their phone number, or even change their name.

There’s no coverage or protection

Private sales offer the vehicle as is, not including any safety net such as a warranty. These are useful to have in case there’s something unexpectedly wrong with the car.

It’s harder to get information on vehicle history

Unless the private seller has retained thorough, accurate paperwork on the work that’s been done on the car, it’s much more arduous to gather information on a vehicle through a private sale than through a dealership. Used car dealerships typically provide a CarFax report.

The vehicle could be stolen

In rare cases, private sellers who offer a great deal may be offloading a stolen vehicle to make quick money, especially if they have a fake title or lack previous documentation. Be vigilant about avoiding a scam.

If you decide to buy a vehicle from a private seller, there are important steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud and getting ripped off, like looking up the VIN number and taking the car to a mechanic before buying it.