Buying a car privately - advice and tips
Someone selling privately hasn't got a showroom to run - and won't offer you any sort of warranty. As a result, you're likely to get a better price than if you bought the same car from a dealer.
Watch out for prices that seem too good to be true, though. It could be the seller is desperate to shift a problematic car.
When it comes to paying for the car, a private seller won't be arranging any finance. It's safest to pay by banker's draft. Cash payments cannot be tracked and are difficult to prove if things go wrong. Do make sure you get a receipt signed by the seller.
Your legal rights
When you buy from a dealer, the car must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for the purpose. The dealer is also obliged to run certain checks on the mileage, the car's condition and to make sure the car isn't stolen.
When you buy privately, however, the car need only be as described.
The seller must be truthful about any descriptions they do give and answer any questions honestly. But if you don't ask about the engine, and it turns out to be shot, you have no right for your money back.
And there's no obligation on the seller to prepare the car to make sure it's roadworthy.
Watch out for criminals and unscrupulous dealers
Dealers sometimes pretend to be private sellers to avoid their legal obligations and rid themselves of problematic cars. And criminals sometimes steal cars to sell them. You can avoid these pitfalls:
- When you ring, ask about "the car you're selling" - if they're not sure which you mean, they may be a dealer or thief.
- Make sure you get a landline number for the seller (and try it) - a mobile number could be a stolen phone or an attempt to hide the seller's real identity. Watch out, too, for numbers that you see in several adverts.
- Meet the seller at their home, in daylight (with a friend, to be safe) - and make sure you go into the home. Ensure the address matches the one on the vehicle registration document. Ask for proof of ID to check that the seller is the registered keeper.
Should you buy privately?
Private sales are a good-value option if you are confident checking a vehicle and its history (or don't mind paying for a professional inspection). You should opt for a dealer, instead, if you'd prefer the safety of more rights and more obligations on the dealer to check the car.
And remember, if you do buy privately, don't allow the seller to bring the vehicle to you, and do not meet them in a car park or other neutral ground. Make sure you get a receipt.
If you buy privately, you'll still need to sell your existing car - a private seller won't be interested in part exchange.
Any person buying a used car should also seek their own independent advice
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Help and advice
Some relevant frequently asked questions
When does the 60 days start? When I register, purchase or when I check the first vehicle?
The 60 days start from the date of purchase of the AutoCheck.
Can you buy a check over the phone?
This service is an online service only, so we are unable to carry out a check over the phone.
When do I get my check?
You report appears as soon as you have successfully made your purchase. The results are instant.
How much does the data check insurance cost?
There is no extra charge for the data insurance, it is included in the cost of your check.
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Here you can see an example report of an AutoCheck.
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