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Pitfalls to avoid when buying a car privatelyBack

PrivatesaleBuying a used car privately can lead to disappointment, particularly if you go into the sale unprepared. At Trusted Dealers, we’d always advise buying from a franchised dealer to ensure the vehicle you are purchasing is 100 per cent legitimate. However, if you are set on buying a car privately, below are some top tips on how to avoid the pitfalls.


Have a clear idea of your budget and try at all times to stick to it. Work out what you can afford  and what types of car you can get for that price. Visit the Trusted Dealers website to gain a clear idea of the market and what types of car are available at a price to suit your requirements. Don’t just look at the initial cost of a car, take into account the running costs associated with it. For example, you might spot a car that seems relatively cheap for its size, but a larger engine will usually incur larger costs at the pump and will be more expensive to tax and insure.

Buying a car from a dealer

Before you decide to buy a car privately, consider the alternative option, to buy from a dealer. There are many advantages to buying from a franchised dealer – although cars may cost a little more initially, you will automatically receive legal protection under the Sale of Goods Act, meaning the car must match the description given by the seller. It should also be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and roadworthy. Should you come across a problem with the car when you buy it, you are within your rights to ask the dealer for your money back or for a repair to be made on the car.

Buying a car privately

If you choose to buy a car privately, you are more likely to get a cheaper price for the car, however, you won’t be protected by the Sale of Goods Act. Providing the car is presented “as described”, if something goes wrong after the sale, you may not be able to get your money back. Before you purchase a car privately, make sure you ask plenty of questions about its present condition, and if necessary, get the answers in writing. If the car turns out to have a fault , you’ll need to be able to challenge the seller’s description to be in with a chance of getting your cash back.

Viewing the car

Always make sure that you are visiting the seller’s home address if you are viewing the car privately. If you arrange to meet elsewhere, you might not have the seller’s home address to return to if there is a problem. Don’t feel under pressure to make a quick decision. If the seller is pushing for a quick sale, be wary, they might be trying to cover something up. It’s important to check the car thoroughly and always take it for a test drive first.  And, if you don’t know much about cars, take a friend along who does.

servicing-10-points2Online checks

Before you make any decision on the car, make sure you perform a number of online checks to ensure the car’s true identity. If you are buying from  a Trusted Dealer, all of the work will be done for you using our 10 Points of Difference promise, which guarantees that all of the cars we sell have been history checked to ensure they are not lost, stolen, clocked or have any outstanding finance. Below is a list of essential checks that must be made if you are considering buying a car privately:

  • Check the vehicle’s registration document (V5C) to make sure it contains no spelling mistakes, alterations or watermarks.
  • Check the name and address on the VC5 matches the sellers – ask to see their driving licence or a recent utility bill for added peace of mind.
  • Check the identifying numbers on the car match the numbers on the VC5 and make sure the numbers do not look like they have been altered.
  • Ask to look at the seller’s insurance policy for the car and a copy of the most recent MOT  certificate.
  • Check the car has a full service history and that the service book has been stamped regularly.
  • Visit the DVLA website to check that the details of the car match up with the ones given by the seller. You can check key details such as the year of manufacture, date of registration, engine capacity and MOT history.

Private history check

If you buy from a franchised dealer, you will not need to pay for a private history check. If you are considering buying a car privately, you’ll have to pay for a private history check, but this will ensure that the car doesn’t have outstanding finance owing on it, has not been stolen or in a accident, and the mileage is correct.

Paying for the car

If you’re buying a used car privately or from a dealer, there is always room to haggle over the price. Providing you’ve done your homework thoroughly, you should feel confident in doing this and, if successful, you could save yourself hundreds of pounds. Once you’ve agreed on a price, and you’ve paid for the car, make sure you get a signed and dated receipt which includes the buyer and seller names and addresses along with the vehicle details and agreed price. Always keep copies of the original advertisement or description of the car in case it is needed at a later date.

Final checks

When the deal is complete, both parties will need to fill in the V5C registration document which the seller then needs to send to the DVLA. You will need to keep the “new keeper” section of the document. If the car is more than 3 years old, make sure you are also given the most up to date MOT certificate and any receipts for repairs. You’ll also need the user manual and any codes for the entertainment system. If the car is supposed to have a spare wheel, check it’s there, along with any tools you need to change it. Finally, make sure you’ve been given a spare key – it can be very expensive to get replacements cut.

If something goes wrong

If things go wrong with the car shortly after the sale, you may still be able to seek help. You will not be able to make claims against the seller for any faults that were already there and pointed out to you at the point of sale, but if you notice something that you haven’t been told about, you may be entitled to claim a full or partial refund from the seller. For more advice on what to do if your car is faulty, visit the Citizens Advice website.

 CarTaxRemember the new rules on car tax

From 1st October 2014, the tax disc on a vehicle was replaced by a new electronic system. Buyers of second hand cars no longer benefit from any remaining months on the tax disk, you will have to get a tax disc for their new car straight away, or risk being caught driving in an untaxed car. Motorists will now have to register their car online to pay Vehicle Excise Duty. This can be done via Direct Debit on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website, on the phone, or at a Post Office branch. Car owners who fail to register for the tax could be caught out by number plate recognition cameras which track each vehicle on the road.

Posted by Leana Kell on 01/02/2016