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nmguy's avatar

Buy a used car from private party or dealer?

Asked by nmguy (528 points ) 3 months ago

Pretty soon, I’ll be in the market for a used car and am wondering whether I should buy it from a private party or from a dealer. How about Craigslist? How many years should it have and still be reliable?

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11 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

We have done both. The dealer usually gets a higher price, but something the car has some sort of warranty with it. If you can buy a car from someone you know really cares for their cars that’s the best. I have sold two cars to neighbors and they got great deals and We really take good care of our cars.

Car Max is probably the most straight forward used car dealer if you want less hassle.

LuckyGuy's avatar

This is a tough one. The answers will be all over the map. I’ll give you the answer that has worked for me, a reasonably savvy car guy.

When I need something in a relatively short time (for a nephew or son that has had an accident) I go to cars.com and do a search for the desired criteria. My nephew will destroy any vehicle he gets his hands on so I will go for something cheap. I don’t care if it is from a dealer or private owner. I want to be able to drive it (legally or not). Make sure you can drive it before you go there.

I favor GM iron because it is easy to get parts, they last a long time and they are cheap. At 100,000 miles they are just getting broken in.
Other imports have similar life expectancies. But often (Honda in particular) they need to have the timing belt or chain replaced at 100000 miles as part of normal service. This is a cheap operation if you can do it yourself. Bit it will typically run you $500–800 if you go to a dealer who will convince you to fix something else while the vehicle is down. Why is that necessary on the Honda but not on a GM? The Honda engine is an interference engine – the valves will hit the pistons if the belt breaks leaving you with a boat anchor. If the belt breaks on a GM the car will stop. No harm done. You just replace it . That job take a few minutes in your driveway. So if you are getting an import, be sure to ask if the timing belt/chain has been replaced and adjust the price accordingly.
Take a friend with you and be sure to drive it at least until it warms up. Park it and look for leaks.
There are plenty of good, used cars out there and they are getting better and more reliable all the time.
When you do get the car, vacuum it out and then bring it to a car wash that does interiors. You will love the results.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

It depends on how much you have to spend, how much you know about cars, and your ability to get financing.
If you are willing to pay extra (sales commissions, overhead, etc.) and you want to get a warranty, choose a reputable dealer. It’s probably better to buy a used car from a new-car dealership than from a used-car lot, but I have done neither- and there are several decent used-car dealers near me, according to Yelp.
If you are poor, mechanically savvy, and able to effectively evaluate cars on your own, then buy from a private party.

Always insist on examining the car, and / or get a mechanic to check the car out for you. I recommend the following:
Compression check.
Exhaust – system check for leaks.
Ball joints, tie rods – check for excessive play or wear.
Electrical – check voltage from chassis ground to battery – terminal, look for corroded connections or cracked wires.

This is in addition to the obvious things like making sure the lights and things all work, and a driving test of course.

Coloma's avatar

I prefer private parties over dealers and always take the vehicle to your own mechanic and pay for a diagnostic and examination. Worth the extra money to professionally evaluate any potential hidden issues known or not disclosed. This is horsetrading and just like buying a horse, you never purchase an animal without a vet check first, no lame horse and no lemon cars. haha

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Dealers are professional liars and thieves. Private parties are mere wannabees in comparison.

Besides, I have been buying used cars from private parties all my life. The main thing is you have to know what to look for and listen for and then decide if the future repairs will be too much for this beastie. (I do almost all my own repair work).

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Before you buy a used car, have an evaluation from your mechanic. If you don’t have one; hire one, they charge a nominal fee around a hundred dollars. Well worth it for a three thousand or more car.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Dan_Lyons You wrote “Dealers are professional liars and thieves.” I know, right?

Except now with the Interwebz, Yolp, Gaggle Plus, Badder Business Bureau and other review sites, they would be out of business if they screwed too many people over. A couple of bad deals to people who complain and their reputation would be shot.
If they have been in business for a while and intend to stay in business they have to tow the line.
Also in New York there is a 72 hour return for any reason policy. Also some warranty is provided if the car is X years old or newer.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I doubt very many people actually go online reporting these liars @LuckyGuy
I wouldn’t expect those kinds of sites to show much promise for five or ten more years.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Dan_Lyons Look at the reviews on Amazon. A lot of peole are willing to rate. products and vendors. Yelp, Yahoo, Google all have rating systems and reviews. If a dealer screwed me I can assure you, I’d complain. It would be worth one hour of my time to help the next person.
The NYS 72 hour return for any reason is also a great idea.
In the case of a private sale I know where the private party lives. That discourages fraud too.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I really like that 72 hour return for any reason rule. That should help a lot of folks.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@LuckyGuy You are 100% of correct. Work the Network!
@Dan_Lyons Take a look at Yelp for used-car dealers in your area. I bet you’ll find some reviews. You don’t have to guess about it.

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