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How to buy a car privately

When it comes to buying a car privately, it’s important that you don’t let your heart rule your head. You’re making a large financial commitment, so you need to make sure that the car is right for you. 

If you buy from a private seller, you won’t receive the same warranties that you would if you bought from a dealership, so this is something to bear in mind. 

Here are our top ten tips to help you buy a car privately: 

Do your research

Is the car model right for you? Does it tick every box on your wish list? Ideally you should test drive a few different cars at a dealership or garage beforehand, to make sure you’re getting the one that suits you best. 

Liking a car on paper (or on screen) can be different to liking a car when you’re sat in it or driving it around. 

Check that it’s affordable

Aside from the purchase price, you’ll have to pay for car insurance, car tax and fuel, so you must make sure that you can afford to run the car. 

If the car you’re buying falls into a much higher car insurance group[1] than the one you currently drive, you should expect your car insurance costs to rise. 

You can start shopping around for car insurance quotes before you buy the car. This will give you an idea of cost and help you find a good deal later. Click here to get a quote for Rias car insurance > 

Don’t pay more than you need to

Visit the Auto Trader website and other car selling sites to find out how much a car with the same specification usually sells for. You don’t want to end up paying over the odds. 

Insist on meeting at the seller’s home

It’s important to meet the person who the car belongs to at the address the car is registered to (on the V5 document). Ask to see ID; a genuine seller shouldn’t have an issue with this. 

Don’t be tempted to meet elsewhere, as you could find out later that the car has been stolen or cloned. 

If the seller doesn’t want to meet at their address or isn’t the registered owner, it might be better to walk away, as they could be a scammer. 

Take your time

You shouldn’t feel under pressure to make a decision on whether you want to buy the car within a few minutes. Ask to see the service book and make sure that the car’s VIN numbers match the V5. 

You need to give the car the once-over, so, if you can, bring a knowledgeable person with you. If you have a friend who is a mechanic, they could be ideal. Otherwise, you could pay for a breakdown company’s vehicle inspection instead. 

Check with the HPI

If you want to proceed and buy the car, you should visit the HPI website first. 

You can check the MOT history of the car for free and then pay a small fee to do a HPI check. This will confirm that the car isn’t a clone, hasn’t got any outstanding debt/finance, isn’t stolen and hasn’t been written off. It’ll also give you other useful information, such as the estimated fuel cost and CO2 emissions. 

If you don’t do a HPI check and later discover that there is outstanding finance on the car, you could have made a costly mistake. 

If the log book (V5C registration certificate) doesn’t match the car on the DVLA records, you are legally required to inform the police. 

Haggling could save you money

You don’t have to offer the price the car is advertised for. If there is any damage or if you feel the vehicle is overpriced, you can offer less.  

The buyer might accept your offer, or you may have to negotiate further, but you won’t know unless you try. 

Paying in cash isn’t wise

The seller might prefer cash but paying for the car this way isn’t secure. In fact, it could put you at risk, as you could be ambushed for your money.

It’s much better to transfer the money from your bank account or use a banker’s draft to make the payment. If something goes wrong, the transaction will be traceable, too - which makes it a much safer alternative both for you and the seller. 

Don’t forget the paperwork

Make sure you’re given a completed New Keeper Supplement or V5C/2 from the log book.

The seller will contact the DVLA to let them know that they’ve sold the car and you should receive a new log book in the post within a couple of weeks.