Vantage Point

Tips for Buying or Selling a Vehicle Through a Private Sale

As tempting as it may be to buy or sell a vehicle through a dealer, it may make more financial sense to complete a private sale with an individual. According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, more than 770,000 people did just that in Missouri in 2018, and most went off without a hitch. If you’re willing to do the research, inspections and paperwork yourself, here are additional things to consider when buying or selling a vehicle through a private sale.

Carefully research the car make and model. You’ll want to know about standard features, performance, and possible safety issues, including recalls, as well as comparable prices for used vehicles from other private seller listings.

Check the facts; CARFAX, that is. With a CARFAX vehicle history report, you’ll receive vital information about the vehicle you’re interested in, including any major accidents it’s been involved in, whether it has a salvage title, or if the odometer has been tampered with. Use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to get this information. As a Vantage Credit Union member, you can obtain CARFAX reports for only $25.00 (regularly $39.99 if purchased directly from CARFAX). Request your CARFAX report and be confident in the vehicle you’d like to purchase.

Be wary of online sites such as Craigslist that list vehicles for sale. Increased cases of fraud have been reported when using sites such as these. The FBI Internet Complaint Center even released an alert as a result of complaints and losses incurred by consumers.

Buyers should inspect the paperwork closely and ask to see the seller’s driver’s license. If the title looks brown, dingy or slick, this is a sign the title may have been tampered with, and if the name on the title is different from the name of the person selling it to you, that’s another red flag. As a precaution, proceed carefully and have the title verified with the state.

The phrase ‘cash is king’ survives for a good reason. You don’t want to hand over your keys and later discover that the buyer’s personal check didn’t clear. Have the buyer pay with cash or a cashier’s check. If they’re paying with a cashier’s check, a Vantage associate can help with verifying the funds with the financial institution the check is drawn on. However, keep in mind that cashier’s checks could be fraudulent even if funds are verified, and not all financial institutions will verify funds.

If the vehicle has a lien on it, it’s a good idea to complete the sale at the location where the lien is held. Plus, you’ll be in a public location—meeting someone by yourself or having them come to your home to secure the collateral could lead to unfortunate consequences. If the lien is with Vantage, contact us ahead of time to inform us of your plans so we can be prepared to assist with any paperwork involving the bill of sale, title and lien release.

Before the sale is final, do one last check of the vehicle for those precious toys stuck in the crevices of the back seat as well as any paperwork with personal information on it. Don’t forget to grab your license plates and garage door opener. And if any codes and contacts were programmed or synced with your vehicle, make sure you delete them.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle, buying a car privately could be a good way to save money. With a little care, you can join the legions of successful private buyers and sellers. Whether you choose to go through a dealer or the private route, you don’t have to go through this process alone—Vantage financial coaches are available to help. With the right loan, you may find you can buy a better car than you thought.

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