Buying Tips

Best Way to Maximize Your Value

Buying a car from a private seller provides significant savings for buyers. Dealerships have overhead and need to account for profit, all of this is reflected in the sales price of a car. According to industry experts, private sellers price their car 20-25% below dealerships and pass the savings to buyers.

Understand your used car tax savings

Purchasing a vehicle from dealership subjects a buyer to sales tax. Whereas, purchasing a vehicle from a private seller subjects a seller to use tax – which is significantly lower than sales tax. Assess the use tax for your next purchase at:

Get pre-qualified

Apply for financing early — before you go shopping, if possible. This can help you understand which cars and trucks will fit your budget, and which ones won’t. When you get pre-qualified, you’ll also get a better idea of how much down payment you might need.

Review the Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is a critical component of your car buying research and provides a detailed snapshot of the car. A vehicle history report from a reputable company, such as CarFax or InstaVin, can tell you quite a lot about a vehicle’s life – including its title, its accident history, service history, and odometer accuracy. There are some things it won’t tell you, and that’s why you will want to back it up with a pre-purchase inspection from an independent mechanic.

Check for recall

Owners may not always know their car may have recall repairs that require attention. NHTSA's search tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years. Generally, recalled repair items incur no cost for remediation and may be performed at a dealership. NHTSA’s search tool is accessible at:

Test Drive and Inspect the Car

Take a test drive. Look for the small things, like a shimmy in the steering, transmission shift smoothness, brakes that need a lot of pressure to bring the car to halt, how well the a/c works and the quality of the ride. Get the car inspected by your own or a third party mechanic to make sure that the wear and tear on the vehicle is consistent with the mileage and to spot any potential problem areas that may need to be addressed.

Review Maintenance Records & Owner’s Manual

Ask the owner for service records, especially for any major work. Ask the seller if there are any warranties that still cover the car. Having the owner’s manual is important to fully understand all of the features of the car. It can definitely come in handy should you proceed with purchasing the car.

Purchase an Extended Warranty

Protect your new purchase by obtaining an extended warranty. Extended warranties can cover key items that routinely require repair. Having an extended warranty can save you money down the road. Make sure you understand the scope of coverage & term, and always work with reputable companies.

Review the Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is a document recording a transaction between two parties. For the buyer, it gives specific information about the vehicle that can be checked against a Vehicle History Report. For the seller, a bill of sale shows the date the vehicle was sold and information about the buyer.