Tips for Buying a Car From a Private Seller

  • Posted 08 Dec

Tips for Buying a Car From a Private Seller

When you buy a new car from a licensed dealer, there must be a warranty from the dealer showing that there is no money owed on the vehicle. It’s a little trickier when buying form a private seller, as the issue of money owed can be difficult to determine, and there aren’t the same guarantees as there are with dealerships.

Without a warranty though, you are putting yourself at risk of being scammed, unless you are highly informed about what to look out for.

To help you navigate buying from a private seller, here are a few tips to ensure you don’t get ripped off.

1. Is there money owed on the car?

When you’re about to buy from a private seller, you’re going to want to make sure that the car is debt free.  To find this information, you’ll need to look at the Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) in your state or territory.  They hold information about all vehicles that have outstanding monies owed.  You should always run a REVS check on the car you want to buy, because if you buy a car with an outstanding debt, you may be liable for that debt in a worst-case scenario, and you could have the car you just purchased, repossessed.

Running a REVS search isn’t hard.  One option to access this is to do an online search at, or you can do a search on your respective state government consumer protection website.

To run the search, you’ll need the following information: the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), registration number or “chassis” number and the engine number.

If the seller won’t provide you with this information, then don’t go any further with the sale.

Perhaps the easiest route is to go to the Personal Property Security Register, where you can conduct national research on the car just by entering the car’s serial number. This is also sometimes the same as the VIN, which can be found on the registration papers.

2. Look out for Fraud

There are some things you can do to avoid becoming the victim of fraud.

  • First, make sure you have a current certificate of registration from the vehicle owner
  • Crosscheck the car’s VIN, chassis and engine numbers
  • Get a safety report that outlines the road readiness of the car you intend to buy
  • Make sure the person selling the car is, in fact, the legitimate owner of the car.  Ask for the seller’s driver’s license or another form of identity.  Ask for more than one form of identity if you can.

Also, be on the lookout for Odometer tampering.  This is when car owners roll back the mileage recorded on the odometer, giving the fraudulent impression that the car has fewer miles and is therefroe more roadworthy than it actually is.

When you have good knowledge of the car’s mileage history, you’ll be more able to assess if the vehicle is a good purchase and whether or not it will meet your needs down the road.

These tips will allow you to purchase a hassle–free second hand car.  If you are still not sure or want to check out our car buying service, contact our team today to discuss your options further.

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