Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller

How To Buy A Used Car From A Private Seller
This article offers advice if you want to buy a used car from a private seller.

What questions should you ask the seller?

Once you have found a car that you potentially want to buy, you will want to contact the seller. You can make contact with the seller either through email or telephone, depending on the details provided by the seller. If you can, always contact the seller via telephone as scammers are more likely to communicate via email. It's important to ask as many questions as possible before you buy a used car. This will give you an indication if you should bother viewing the car personally and if the car meets your standards. Here are some questions you can ask the seller, but also think of other questions that might be relevant to the particular car you are interested in and your particular needs.

General Questions

  • How old is the car?
  • How many previous owners has the car had?
  • Who drives the car?
  • How long have you (the seller) owned the car for?
  • How much mileage has the car done?
  • What was the mileage when you (the seller) bought the car?
  • Describe the interior and exterior condition of the car?
  • Does the car have any outstanding finance?
  • Why are you (the seller) selling the car?
  • Where did you (the seller) buy the car?
  • What are you (the seller) willing to sell the car for?

Maintenance

  • Is there any damage to the car, both externally and/or mechanically?
  • Has the car been in any accidents?
  • Has the car had any maintenance done recently?
  • What maintenance needs to be done to the car? Example: Tyres, electrics, windscreen wipers, panel beating etc.

Paperwork

  • Does the car have all the necessary ownership and roadworthy documents?
  • Does the car have a service history logbook?
If you are interested in the car, you may want to arrange a date and time to view the car in person. Ask the seller for an address and arrange an appropriate date and time to meet. *Tip: Research the market value of the car before contacting the seller. You can do this by comparing the car value with other similar cars on Cars.co.za. This will allow you to negotiate the selling price and will save you time and money.

What safety precautions should you take when meeting a private seller?

Personal safety and avoiding car scams is of paramount importance when potentially buying a car from a private seller. For your own safety, consider the following safety precautions: Personal Safety when meeting the seller
  • Meet the seller in a public place or at the seller's home, never meet in quiet or deserted locations
  • Have someone accompany you when meeting the seller
  • Never carry large amounts of cash with you
  • Let other people know where you are
  • Always be aware of what is happening around you

How to avoid car scams

Cars.co.za makes a considerable effort to ensure that every private vehicle advertised is a legitimate vehicle. However, knowing how to avoid being scammed is always important, here are some tips:
  • Compare the price of the vehicle with other similar vehicles on Cars.co.za. If the price is unusually low, it could be a scam
  • Never transfer money without seeing the vehicle personally
  • Never transfer money overseas or make a large deposit
  • Always meet the seller in person
  • Always contact the seller via phone number, preferably a landline number. Scammers often try and communicate via email only
  • Do a history check on the car to ensure it's not stolen and to confirm the registration details
  • Make sure the ownership and roadworthy documents are original and that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches the number on the documents
  • Make sure that the owner's details match the details presented on the ownership and roadworthy documents
  • Check the service history of the car
  • If you suspect fraud or are a victim of a scam, contact the Police immediately
*Tip: If you feel unsure about the car, the seller or the documents, rather walk away.

Summary

Don't feel shy to ask questions. Find out as much as you can about the car and the seller. Be aware of car scammers and always ensure your safety by taking someone with you when meeting with the seller.

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