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Tips for buying a private sale car

19 February 2020

Tips for buying a private sale car

Buying a car from a private seller can get you a great deal, but it always pays to be prepared. Before you get behind the wheel, here's a few things to keep in mind:

1. Do your research Show more

The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make the right decision. Jump online and research the car you're looking for so you'll know what to expect.

Websites like Redbook and GoAuto will give you an idea of the average costs and how the prices vary by mileage. Set yourself a budget and include all the extra costs you'll need to pay like insurance and registration.

Once you've found a potential car, make a checklist and inspect the vehicle. Things to look out for include:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), registration number and engine number: make sure these are identical to those on the registration papers
  • evidence of previous major crash repairs, like overspray or missing fasteners
  • uneven tread on tyres
  • rust or fluid leaks
  • faulty indicator and brake lights

It's also a good idea to arrange an independent inspection by a qualified mechanic.

We know it goes without saying, but take the car for a test drive. Check how smoothly it steers, accelerates and brakes, changes gears and handles corners.

Test the handbrake on a hill to check it holds the car securely. Listen for unusual sounds and look out for things like a vibrating steering wheel. Check the heater, air conditioner and even the CD player.

If you're ready to make an offer, make sure there's no outstanding debt on the vehicle. The easiest way is to buy a report at Car History. It'll tell you if the car has any outstanding financial liability, its sales history, rego status, and any insurance claims.

Once you've found the right car and it ticks all the boxes, make sure to insure your car before you drive away.

For more reading, see CANSTAR's guide to purchasing a used car.

Please note: This is only intended as a general guide in relation to issues you may want to consider when buying a private seller car. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all relevant issues and you should take into account your own particular circumstances, and obtain independent expert advice where needed, before proceeding.

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