Top tips for buying a used car from a private seller

Motoring 2019-6-26
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Top tips for buying a used car from a private seller

Buying a car privately is a great way of saving £££’s compared to a big dealership. There are plenty of cars being sold by private sellers who have a new car coming and are looking for a quick sale or those who just don’t fancy trading it in.

There are definitely more risks when choosing to buy a car this way, but if you’re careful and buy smart then you could get your dream car for a fraction of the cost. These top tips should help you on your way.


Finding your car

There are loads of websites such as Auto Trader and Facebook marketplace that let private sellers advertise their cars – usually at very reasonable prices.  

Start by working out the specifications you want eg. Size, cost, fuel type, age, etc. The more you look at, the better idea of the current market sale value you’ll have, which can help with budgeting.

Top tip – make a shortlist of about 3 or 4 cars and don’t just go for the first one that you see. You’ll be surprised how much variation there can be between models and you may end up getting more for your money with added extras by spending a little extra time shopping around.


Do your homework

According to UK law, ALL adverts are required to state whether it’s a private or trade sale but unfortunately, not everyone will be honest.

For peace of mind, when making an enquiry, don’t identify the vehicle to the seller – only ask to view “the car you have for sale”. If the response you are given is “which one?”, this is a good indication that it might be a trade sale.


HPI check

Once you’ve found a car that you like, its time to start checking out the background of the vehicle - this is where a HPI check comes in.

A HPI check is a vehicle check that brings back the full history of any motorised vehicle registered in the UK. This is one of the most important things you can do when buying a used car, especially if it’s from a private seller.

It will tell you if there is any outstanding finance, if it’s been reported as stolen, written off or has mileage discrepancies.


Book a vehicle inspection

If you’re not confident in your ability to complete a full and thorough check on a potential car then it might be worth looking into getting a pre-purchase vehicle inspection from a reputable company such as the AA or RAC.

This check will give peace of mind knowing that the car you are buying is mechanically sound and worth the asking price.

As there are different levels of inspections available from basic to full comprehensive, there’s plenty of choice to suit every budget.


Always view at the seller’s address

You should never go and view a private car anywhere but the seller’s address. If you are asked to meet elsewhere such as a car park then this should be a red flag.

ask to see all the registration documents and to check that the V5 has the seller’s name and address match.

Top tip - Also be aware if the car is parked outside a residence and the seller is already outside. They may just be waiting for you, but this is one of the tactics that many fraudsters are using, so be weary.


Never take cash to a viewing

For safety reasons, it’s best not to carry cash with you even if you are going with the intention of buying.

From a safety point of view, you don’t want to be walking round with a large amount of cash as it could make you a target for criminals.  Plus, the seller may not be happy with a traditional cash payment.

Even though most sellers won’t allow you to take the car until funds have been cleared into their account, bank transfers are so quick and efficient these days there is nothing to worry about.


Check the VIN

VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number and is the easiest way to check that the car you are buying is legit. Unlike a registration number, a VIN is unique to the car and cannot be legally changed.

It’s usually located either under the bonnet or at the bottom the windscreen so at the first opportunity, ensure it matches the paperwork.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The more questions you ask, the better informed your decision will be. Most sellers will be more than happy to spend time providing you with answers. Be cautious if you get very vague answers or information that doesn’t seem right, this could be an indication of a dodgy sale, so trust your instincts

For more information on what questions you should be asking, click here to find out more

Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.

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