With the various scams being perpetuated by unscrupulous individuals, you may wonder why a person would even bother to buy a car privately. There are those who roll back their odometers and fake the car’s service history, or those that involve dealers posing as private sellers to dump a lemon. Then there are the title washers who register repaired cars in another state to hide its history. But probably the most insidious of all is the practice of VIN cloning, where a stolen car’s VIN plate is replaced with a fake one scanned from a legitimate unit, including the door and body stickers. In this case, two parties become victims, the person whose car was stolen and the unsuspecting buyer who did the proper checks but was still duped into buying a stolen vehicle.
All of these situations are scary enough to read about, so much so that you’ll want to turn your back on buying a car privately forever. But there are distinct advantages when you buy a car privately, such as getting a rare or sentimental model that is not easily available somewhere else. There are also buyers who look to buy a one- or two-year old car that’s in very good condition and with decent mileage for its age. At that point, the car will have depreciated a lot in value but still be in very good condition, specially with today’s cars that are built better, have multi-year warranties and can go hundreds of thousands of kilometers before needing major repair. For much less money, these buyers get a decent-looking and -running car that doesn’t look dated yet.
In cases like these, it makes sense to go buy a car privately. Used car dealers may have similar cars, but these will either be more expensive or have higher mileage and wear. By going to a private seller, the buyer cuts out the dealer’s margin. But since you won’t have the protection of going back to the dealer in case you end up with a lemon or a car with a questionable title, you will have to perform your own checks in order to protect yourself. First of all, verify the car’s history by using a tracing service such as Carfax. This is money well spent although it must be said that VIN-cloned stolen vehicles have been known to pass these tests. But common sense should also prevail when you check a car out. For example, is the price too good to be true? You know the saying here. What does your gut say about the car and the seller? Oftentimes, how the owner presents or carries himself or herself will give you hints on how the car was taken car of, or if the car’s ownership is legit. Beware of deals that seem rushed, and of sellers who demand an all-cash transaction fast. Aside from these, take a mechanic with you and take your time in checking the car out thoroughly. If the owner seems to be rushed or is fidgety, then there’s a good chance that the seller is not on the up and up.
When you buy a car privately, chances are very good that you will end up with a good deal that will leave both buyer and seller happy. As a buyer though, don’t permit yourself to be rushed by the seller, check the car out thoroughly and trust your instincts.