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March 15, 2013 | auto

3 Tips for Buying a Car from a Private Seller

Buying a used car from an individual instead of a dealer can save you dealer markup. But if there are problems with the car, you won't have the same recourse. Take these steps to make sure you know what you're buying.

Ask the Seller Some Questions

  • How long have you owned the car?
  • Why are you selling it?
  • Can I review the vehicle's repair and maintenance records? If the seller doesn't have the records, ask for the name of the mechanic or shop that works on the car so you can review the records there. If the seller tells you he maintained the car himself, so there are no records, you can have your own mechanic examine the car. Auto P.I. is a company in Austin that specializes in pre-purchase inspections, and offers a discount to Amplify members.
  • How has the car been driven? Was it used for errands around town, a daily commute in traffic, long road trips? Has it been sitting, undriven, for a while?
  • Is the seller an auto dealer? Is the title issued in the seller's name? If you think a seller may be an unlicensed dealer, be extremely cautious. These individuals often peddle cars with serious mechanical problems.

Do Your Homework

  • If something is too good to be true, it probably is. Ask if the car has a salvaged title. If it does, walk away immediately. A salvaged title means the vehicle has been badly damaged at some point and is usually uninsurable.
  • Investigate on your own. Don't rely solely on the seller's answers. They want to sell and may skew their responses or just not know if something has failed if the vehicle has been sitting for a while. To be safe, have a reputable mechanic inspect the vehicle, and consider obtaining a Vehicle History Report from

Secure Your Financing Before You Shop

Before you start shopping for a used car, get pre-approved for an Amplify Auto Loan. If you settle your financing before you start shopping, you'll start out ahead of the game. You'll know exactly what you can spend, and the seller will be more likely to negotiate with someone who already has their money ready to go.