First of all, you’re likely going to spend at least a couple thousand dollars, depending on the make, model, mileage, and overall condition of the car. You’ll also have to get the title transferred to your name and transport the car from its current location. And, if it’s a fixer-upper, you’re going to have to put some time and money into the fixing up.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t shop online if you’re looking for a good deal on a car. In fact, a lot of the time, buyers are able to get a better deal by going through private sellers online than by going to their local used car dealership. The important thing is to exercise precaution so you don’t end up with a lemon.
Here are a few things to do before making the purchase.
Study up on the model. You may have your dream car in mind, but how much do you really know about the model? Read auto blogs and car fan forums to learn about potential flaws, typical repair and cost intervals, and what other people are paying when buying used.
Vet the seller. Find out what you can about the online seller before purchasing a car from them. Have they sold other cars or car parts online before? Do they have a good reputation with buyers? Don’t hesitate to email them with any questions you may have about the car, and if you sense any red flags in their response (e.g. refusing to tell you the mileage), look for another seller.
Buy close to home whenever possible. You might think you’ve found a great deal across the country, but before you let your excitement get the better of you, think about how you’re going to transport it. Having it shipped may end up costing you much more than getting the same car at a local used dealership. Whenever possible, look for sellers in your town of city so you can easily pick up the car – and inspect it.
Check for obvious damage. Arrange to inspect the car before you buy it or, if you’re dead set on buying from out-of-town, at least look closely at the pictures. Check for dents and ripples in the body, peeling paint, and tire wear. If you’re able to inspect the car yourself, you should also obviously check the mileage on the odometer and turn on the engine to ensure it runs smoothly. You may even want to bring a mechanic with you, if you don’t know a lot about cars yourself.
Be prepared to bargain. The seller has most likely set their asking price high knowing savvy buyers are going to haggle to bring the price down.
Check out SheepBuy’s car category to find great deals on used cars and car parts.