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checklist3Buying a car from a private seller can be tricky. Not only do you have to hone your bargaining skills as you would when working with dealer, you’ll also likely need to secure the full purchase price up front and complete some paperwork that the dealer would normally complete on your behalf. So, when you’re looking at buying a car from a private seller be sure to pay close attention to the tips below.
Verify the Vehicle
While we often want to assume the best in others it’s important to do some background work. If you’ve already found the car you want to buy you’ll want to call and confirm that the ad is legitimate. Scams and fraudulent ads are often placed by those who only want to communicate through email. If the private seller’s phone number is listed it’s worth a quick call to confirm that there’s a real person on the other end of the line.
Vehicle Inspection
Buying from a private seller means you’ll also need to try and secure a vehicle inspection. While the seller may swear up and down that their car is in perfect, road-ready condition, you’ll want to ensure that a neutral third party inspects the vehicle for you if you’re unable to be there in person. There are a number of vehicle inspection companies like or that will send a certified inspector to the seller’s location and provide both parties with a comprehensive vehicle inspection report.
Clear the Title
When you’re buying a car from a private seller, the responsibility falls on you to ensure that the vehicle is free of and liens or loans. While the seller should disclose this information, a simple comparison of the registration and title to the VIN will not only tell you if there is still a lien on the vehicle, but also allow you a chance to make sure all the paperwork matches up as it should.
Paperwork Round Up
Buying a car from a private seller means that you now get to play the roll of paperwork clerk as well as the buyer. As mentioned above, you’ll need to gather a copy of the title, registration and any other supporting documentation that may be required by the state you live in – all for tax purposes.
Protect Your Purchase with Escrow
While buying a car from a private seller can be a significant cost savings, you’ll still want to protect your purchase funds. Private sellers and buyers can both benefit by using an escrow service, which acts as a neutral third party to hold the full purchase price until the purchase agreement is completed. With escrow, the buyer’s funds are verified up front to avoid non-payment and sellers no longer have to worry about misrepresentation or mailing checks. Click for more information about vehicle escrow and escrow services.
Regardless of how you find your dream vehicle, remember that working with a private seller, in many ways, is no different that working with a dealer. While you may not have the financing options or quantity of vehicles to choose from, a private seller is working to get as much money out of their vehicle as possible. However, arming yourself with the above tips is a great way to ensure that you have enough information in your arsenal to negotiate and close a sale like a pro.

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