How to buy a car privately

Independent motor insurance expert, Ruth Frances, offers some top tips when buying a car from a private seller.

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There are several really important things you’ll need to do before buying a used car from a seller.

Shop around

Shopping around is key, not only to get the best deal, but to ensure you’ve got the car that best suits you.

Visit some used car dealerships and have a good look around at what’s available, remembering to be open to all options.

Look at space, build quality and practicality and also consider running and insurance costs. If you find a model that ticks all those boxes then it’s simply the case of finding the right car at the right price.

Once you have decided on a car, look at websites such as and, to get an idea of real world price. It’s also worth researching it on internet forums and used car buyer guides to find common faults and potential repair bills.

Meet at the seller’s address

When you find a car you are interested in viewing, make sure you meet at the registered address on the V5 document, DO NOT agree to meet at a petrol station or a road side layby - these are prime locations for scammers selling cloned or stolen cars.

Also, if the seller’s name doesn’t match on the V5, walk away! And remember it’s important to trust your instincts; if something doesn’t feel right then don’t be afraid to ask for ID to prove the seller is who they say they are.

Check over the car

Checking over the car thoroughly is one of the most important thing to do before you buy, not only will it give you piece of mind that the cars not stolen, a ‘cut and shut’ or cloned, but any scratches or imperfections will give you leverage when it comes to striking a deal.

Check the VIN numbers on the car match the V5 and haven’t been tampered with, and check the service book - a full service history gives you the security that the car has been well looked after.

Don’t be afraid to walk

Remember you don’t always need to go for the first car you see, the seller may suggest there has been interest from other buys but don’t feel pressurised, it’s a buyers’ market and similar cars are almost always available.

If you have decided to go ahead, the first thing to do is to get in touch with HPI check there is no outstanding finance or logbook loans on the car, if you don’t do this you will be liable for any outstanding debt.

Bring in an expert

If the car comes back clear, you will need to make sure it’s mechanically sound; the best thing to do is speak to a breakdown provider, many of which will check the car over for a small fee.

There are no guarantees; these are used cars after all, but any obvious faults should be picked up.

When it comes to haggling don’t be afraid to go in low, most cars are advertised with a price that allows some negotiation.

This is where your research on similarly priced cars will pay dividends, also any scratches or general wear and tear you spotted earlier offer good grounds for knocking a few quid off the asking price.

Pay safely

Once a price is agreed always use a traceable payment method. DO NOT use cash. A bankers draft or bank transfer are the most secure ways of paying.

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