The Los Angeles Times recently reported on a Palm Springs women who was the victim of a Craigslist fraud. The scheme involved the victim paying more than $10,000 for a used Honda Civic, only to have it stolen the next day by the very people who sold her the car. Buying a used vehicle from a private party can be a confusing and sometimes risky transaction. If you are in the market for a used vehicle, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
The right car, at the right price: Finding a vehicle and determining its true value is easier than ever with the use of the Internet. There are a multitude of publications and websites that offer private party used vehicles for sale. Once you have found your ideal vehicle, it’s time to determine if the seller is asking a fair price. The National Automobiles Dealers Association, as well as Kelley Blue Book, both have websites with research tools that will lead you to an accurate price for a used vehicle based on mileage and other options.
Avoid a lemon: Buying a defective vehicle, also known as a “lemon,” is among the primary concerns when purchasing a used car. A thorough inspection of the vehicle should include a comprehensive check of the exterior, interior and drivability. It is wise to have a friend, or parent for younger buyers, with you when inspecting the vehicle. A second pair of eyes can help spot a problem you may have overlooked. It is also prudent to convey to the seller that you want to have the vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic prior to exchanging any monies.
History repeats itself: In addition to physically inspecting the vehicle, buyers should also complete a title history. Consumers can learn about the history of a vehicle through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). Operated by the Department of Justice, NMVTIS is an electronic database that allows consumers to find information about a vehicle’s title, most recent odometer reading and theft history. Buyers can also gain information about a vehicle’s “brand” history, which is a label assigned to describe a vehicle’s current or prior condition, such as salvaged, junked or flooded.
Safety doesn’t happen by accident: When completing the actual transaction of handing over the money and receiving the vehicle, consider the location. Insist that the buyer meet you at your local police station parking lot or DMV office. You will be less likely to be ripped off by unscrupulous sellers, and you may be able to get valuable information from officers or DMV staff that will make you more confident of your purchase.