Issues on Private Sale Cars

Issues on Private Sale Cars

Filed under Information Centre

Buying used cars from private sellers isn’t without concerns:

> Why are they really selling it? Does the car need repairs? Am I buying a lemon?

Scouring private sale cars online from the comfort of your own home is easy and exciting but it gets a lot more serious when you start talking dollars with sellers.

We go over some of the top issues on private sale cars - PLUS tips to deal with them. If you’re thinking about buying a car from a private seller, go in smart…

Paint Damage

Buyer: “The scratches aren’t visible online”. Seller: “Yeah, you just have to look closely”.

This conversation is all too common when buying private sale cars. They look stunning in the photos, but scratches and stone chips are visible in person.

Paint damage is a tough one because some light scratches can be simply and cheaply repaired with polishing compound and elbow grease. Other scratches are labour intensive and cost a lot to fix.

If you fancy your negotiating skills, you may be able to use paint blemishes to your advantage and push the price of the car down.

Tip: Make sure to view the vehicle in daylight hours so you can see the paint clearly.

Interior Trouble

Buyer: “The upholstery looks a little rough”. Seller: “Nah, just wear and tear”.

Cigarette burns, pet hair, spilled food and drinks - they can be tough to spot while you’re having a quick look at private sale cars on a Saturday afternoon. If you’re buying a family SUV for example, the likelihood of interior damage from kids or pets increases. Old food and drink can result in bad smells but often it’s easily repairable.

Tip: Talk to the seller to find out what kind of life and use the car has had. You may be able to get some clues, or better yet - some honest answers.

Repaired Write-offs

Buyer: “Has it ever been in an accident?”. Seller: “Well I’ve never crashed it”.

Buying a car and then finding out it’s previously been crashed and repaired can be a crushing feeling. In Australia, there are two basic kinds of ‘write-offs’:

Statutory Write-Off: This means the vehicle is a total loss. The car is not repairable due to major damage. This can happen for a number of reasons; fire, flood or submersion in salt water or a major accident for example. Statutory write-offs can not be reregistered again in Australia.

Repairable Write-Off: This means the vehicle has been considered ‘damaged, but not beyond repair’. For example, hail damage or minor accident damage. These cars can be repaired by a licenced repairer per the manufacturer's guidelines. They can be re-registered if they meet government requirements and inspections. Check your state laws.

Generally, repaired write-offs have a far lower value. Some private sellers can be tempted to sell repaired write-offs at undamaged-car prices.

Get a PPSR report. These tell you if private sale cars have ever been written off, reported as stolen or has any money owing on it from a car loan. You’ll need the VIN number from the seller to purchase the report.

Tip: Some signs of damage appear only when a car is driven. Always go for a test drive. For example, the steering and suspension may be uneven and engine and transmission may struggle.

Home Servicing

Buyer: “The last service in the logbook was 2 years ago”. Seller: “Nah, I did one last month”.

Some car owners prefer to carry out maintenance and servicing themselves. For example, oil changes and installing new brake pads in the driveway. Whether you see this as a negative or not is up to you as a buyer but always make sure private sale cars have been maintained and serviced with correct parts.

Ideally, the original service log book comes with the vehicle and has been kept up to date and with all manufacturer recommended specifications.

Hidden Faults

Buyer: “Is there anything wrong with the car?”. Seller: “Nup”.

Every buyer fears hidden faults and problems. Parting ways with a large amount of money only to realise the engine light has come on, things have been repaired with tape and cable ties or funny noises suddenly start.

Check out the vehicle as best you can. Some things become noticeable on hard acceleration or high speeds which highlights the importance of why you should do a test drive.

Tip: If you’re not confident with checking the engine, transmission and other parts of the vehicle, consider paying a professional to carry out a thorough inspection. You’ll receive a detailed report and get an idea of repair costs.

End of the Day

More often than not, great deals on quality cars are found through private sales. Make sure you take the above into consideration to limit the risks as much as possible.

If the cars you’re looking at aren’t cutting the mustard, increase your budget with a car loan. After comparing car loans, many people find the benefit of buying a more reliable car makes the loan repayments worth it.

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