This guest post is from Kevin Chung, an accountant and business consultant with a penchant for muscle cars.
Whether you buy a used car from a dealership or a private party, you should do your homework to make sure you are getting the right car for your needs and budget. Either option could be a good one, and either could be a mistake waiting to happen. Weigh the factors to determine which seller offers the best long-term benefit to you. Consider pricing, vehicle history reports, financing options and insurance costs, says DMV.org.
Why Buy from a Used Car Dealer?
Dealers selling used cars must meet specific operating and selling procedures governed by law. Additionally, a dealer can offer a warranty on the vehicle (though they are not required to.) They also can certify cars, something private owners cannot do. They offer financing options, including helping the buyer find a loan. Perhaps more important, if the car is a lemon, the buyer can usually count on the dealer to fix the problem. Each state’s lemon laws differ, and you can research them through the BBB.org website.
The cons with a dealer include the likely higher price (because there is a markup so the dealer can profit) and the sales team. That sales team is aiming for the highest commission possible, which means they are working to get as much money from you as possible.
Why Buy from a Private Person?
Buyers can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars by purchasing their used cars from private parties. Private parties may need cash fast and will offer lower prices. Or, they might have had low-ball offers as trade-in values from a dealership.
Always check the value of a used car prior to making an offer. You can check the values of used cars at sites like KBB.com. You can also check to see what similar makes and models have sold for through eBay.com. These services will provide you with the trade-in value for the car based on its condition.
The Risks of Private Party Purchases
You don’t know the person you are buying from, nor whether this person is selling you a lemon. You have fewer protections when buying from a private individual. You can’t trade in your vehicle or get a warranty for your purchase.
Make your first step a check of the vehicle’s car history with a Carfax vehicle history (you’ll need the car’s VIN.) Visit a trusted mechanic. Ask him to look at the vehicle or schedule a time to take it to the shop with the seller. If the seller doesn’t agree, walk away from the purchase.
Once you agree on the price, the seller should give you the title to transfer into your name. Though it is best to do so with both parties present, you will ultimately need to visit the title bureau to complete this transaction. If you were to buy from a dealer, it’s all done in-house.
Buy from a private individual if you want a low price and are willing to do the hard work of learning about the condition of the car. Buy from a dealer if you want to ensure the quality is there and you want a warranty. Ultimately, both can work well if you do your homework first.
Creative Commons image by rptnorris