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Buying a car from an individual: help me avoid getting screwed over

tallgeezetallgeeze Registered User regular
edited April 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
For the past few months I've been on a hunt searching for a reasonably used car/truck. I think I found some good leads, but I need some help when it comes to addressing the person(s) in question. I tried doing some google searches, but most of the stuff I found was not that informative.

I really would like to know what types of things I can use to help me avoid getting ripped off in a car purchase. Off the the top of my head I can only think of a few things:

1) Never pay in cash (is personal check ok?)
2) Ask for some service records
3) Carfax
4) Test drive

Assuming I get past those hurdles(and any others you might contribute) is there anything else I should do when purchasing from an individual? Do I need to draw up some simple contract stating the terms of sale? If so, is there some template out there I can use or do I just use the best legal jargon I can come up with?

Thanks for any help you guys can provide.

tallgeeze on

Posts

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Always inspect the car yourself. Open the hood and inspect the engine. Look at the belts on the sides to see how warn they are. Look at the spark plug wires. See if things have been replaced rather recently, or if not, what kind of condition they are in. They might need to be replaced, which you can use to your advantage to haggle down on the price, as you'll need to make those repairs. A friend of mine will actually bring his tools and disassemble some parts of the car. Like, he will pull out all of the spark plugs to know what kind of condition the engine is in. You don't need to do that, but that's just an example. Be sure to check the fluid levels, and their color. Does the coolant look kind of sickly, faded and worn? Or is it brand new? Either case is something to be weary of. Does the brake fluid look clean, and clear, and feel new? Or is it brown and black and nasty?

    Look underneath it. Like, crawl underneath it and take a good look. Look for rust and warn bushings and the like. Examine the exhaust. Look at the tires, their depth, and if they've been rotated (they should be evenly warn, or at least somewhat close. If they haven't been rotated, or are due to rotation, the drive wheels, such as the front ones on a front wheel drive car, will be warn noticeably more than the rear ones).

    When you purchase it, you should get the title, and he should get a stub from it. You should also make a bill of sale, where he says he's selling you the car with VIN # blahblahblah with mileage ###### to you on the date, etc. Make a copy for you and him, and keep the original for yourself in case you get pulled over or something else bad happens. Once you get the updated title, you can chuck that. Some people even get that notarized. If you want, you can, but you certainly don't need to have that done.

    If you don't wish to pay in cash, you can use a cashier's check. I don't know why you wouldn't want to pay in cash. Once you make a bill of sale, it doesn't matter as you will have your tracks covered.

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Ask to take it to a mechanic to have it checked out. We've sold a few cars privately and have had many people do this. We usually just exchange keys while they're gone and have never had a problem. If he doesn't want you to do this, I would be wary that he's hiding something.

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  • EndEnd Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Ask to take it to a mechanic to have it checked out. We've sold a few cars privately and have had many people do this. We usually just exchange keys while they're gone and have never had a problem. If he doesn't want you to do this, I would be wary that he's hiding something.

    This here is a good idea.

    if we're too far behind / and really out of time / is there another world they plan to find?
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  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Check out http://www.carbuyingtips.com/ - it's kind of a dense site but it's full of good info.

    You can download a mockup bill of sale which is probably a good idea. Also depends on where your financing is coming from, if you're going that route, though probably not if you're talking about cash. And unless we're talking dirt cheap beater style, you probably want to go with a cashier's check. If you at all sketched out by the seller, insist that the transaction occur at yours or his bank.

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  • stahstah Registered User
    edited April 2010
    Cash shouldn't be a problem if you've got the bill of sale. Just don't hand over any form of payment until the deal is done.

    Personally, I wouldn't ever take a personal check for a car from a buyer. It's easier to fake those and then you're SOL(and a car).

  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    In fact I've witnessed people do the (large) cash transaction at the sellers bank, and make the deposit immediately with both parties present.

    No questions about counterfeiting then.

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  • tallgeezetallgeeze Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    ok, cash is a good method of payment if you have a bill of sale. I just read some horror stories when cash was used, so I wanted to avoid that.

    My dad was telling me about the mechanic thing. Forgot to add that to the list.

  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Very important:

    Make sure you have a way to get plates for your vehicle. If the seller isn't a goose he'll remove his plates once the sale is done, and you can't drive a car without plates.

    I've witnessed a guy at the DMV who bought a vehicle, drove to the DMV where the seller took the plates and left, the guy went inside to re-title the car and get plates.. and found he couldn't for some residency reason and it would take weeks to process.
    Whoops.

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  • wallakawallaka Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    There's a grace period in every state that I know of when purchasing a car. As long as you have the bill of sale and title, it should be fine to 21-30 days of purchase, depending on the state.

    Also, as long as you have a registration recipt in the car you'll be fine if you get pulled over, even if you don't have a physical tag yet. I was able to legally drive the car I imported from Germany for about six months before they actually got the registration and title application squared away.

  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    End wrote: »
    Ask to take it to a mechanic to have it checked out. We've sold a few cars privately and have had many people do this. We usually just exchange keys while they're gone and have never had a problem. If he doesn't want you to do this, I would be wary that he's hiding something.

    This here is a good idea.

    Small piece of advice from a friend's experience recently. Ask the mechanic to put his notes on the car in writing. A buddy of mine bought a practically-but-not-quite-legally-lemon after having taken it to the mechanic. Due to the fact that he'd bought it as-is and it wasn't actually a lemon, just a much shittier car than represented, he didn't have much legal recourse against the seller. However, the mechanic who had given the car a look over had really, really dropped the ball on this one and overlooked some serious problems. Had he gotten everything in writing, he could have dealt with the mechanic and his complete failure to do his job well.

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  • tallgeezetallgeeze Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Thanks for the help guys. Too bad the damn good deal of a truck I was looking at got snatched up already.

    Why couldn't it be listed last week when I was on vacation :(

  • DhalphirDhalphir don't you open that trapdoor you're a fool if you dareRegistered User regular
    edited April 2010
    i don't know about Japan, but in Australia we have a company called the RAC which handles a whole heap of things to do with automobiles, like road-side assistance insurance if you break down, actual car insurance itself, and one of the services they offer is an on-site 100 point car check. its a pretty standard thing, the car doesn't have to be moved at all, the RAC will just go out to the address where the car is parked, do a 100 point check on it, and give you a full report about everything thats on it. they are pretty exhaustive, I bought a 3year old car and they found several minor things with it that I haven't even noticed myself (a slight scratch in the corner of the windshield (that you can't see unless you know its there), minor scuff marks around the keyhole for the driver door, and they even noted that the car boot only opens with two keypresses of the remote, even though the car is actually designed that way.

    Obviously the RAC themselves won't be able to help you but you should check whether there is an equivalent in Japan because it helps to have a written record of anything that is wrong with the car.

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  • tallgeezetallgeeze Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    lol, I'm not in Japan, but thanks for the advice anyways. It's part of my whole avatar/sig theme thingy :P

    I will check if there is a similar service here in Texas. RAC sounds similar to Triple A here in the states. I don't mind renting out a mechanic if the price is right.

  • DhalphirDhalphir don't you open that trapdoor you're a fool if you dareRegistered User regular
    edited April 2010
    If you know or are friendly with a mechanic or have a contact who knows someone who is a mechanic, offer them a carton of beer to come with you and do a quick spot check of the car. That is, if you don't feel confident enough to do one yourself (I know i wouldn't.)

    Tube-san wrote:
    I apologise for my rudeness desu.
  • AvicusAvicus Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    A requirement when selling a car where I live is it must have a Road Worthy Certificate. These are given out by mechanics and it must be issued in the 3 months before a sale. The cost of getting one of these is on the seller and it lets the buyer have peace of mind. There are some dodgy people that get fake ones when trying to sell their POS skyline though.

    Maybe see if there is something similar where you live?

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