General Question

shilolo's avatar

When buying a used car, what are the pros and cons of buying directly from another person versus a dealership?

Asked by shilolo (17998points) May 5th, 2009

My wife and I are going to cave and buy a second car. We want to buy a decent used car, but I have only ever bought one car to date (a new one from a dealership). Can anyone with more experience clue me in to the nuances of buying a used car?

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19 Answers

squirbel's avatar

Ask lots of questions, and never feel like you are asking too many. If they shy away from the deal because you are too “nosy”, stay away from the car.

Buying outright from another car owner has it’s advantages. Dealerships often take cars of questionable history, fix them up, and sell them as used. This is scary, because you could have a car that has been in an accident at some point or another.

For that same reason, you want to buy a car that has only had one owner. Ask these questions:

- Do you have the maintenance history on this car? [if no, say no to the deal. you want a car that has been well maintained.]
– How long have you owned the car?
– How many miles? [Don’t be scared of high miles if the car has been well-maintained.]

There are other questions that aren’t coming to my mind just yet, but I’m sure someone else will chip in.

jca's avatar

if you buy it from a person it’s usually cheaper. if you get it from a dealer it’s usually more expensive but usually will have some sort of warranty. also if there’s a problem you can complain to some higher agency, like better business bureau. what squirbel said is true, too, about dealers hiding problems. then again a person could do that, too, if they know what they’re doing, or if they don’t tell you about the history of the car.

psyla's avatar

You have to be more confident. Don’t go in there acting like you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re just buying a car, you take your chances, there’s no guarantee it won’t break down. It’s a risk. Even a car that you hire a private mechanic to inspect before purchase can still break down. Just buy a car. If there’s problems later, fix them. Don’t be tentative or hesitant. Just buy a car.

jlm11f's avatar

Whether buying from dealer or person, I would not trust them for the history of the car. Usually when buying from dealerships, you can ask them for the car fax report for the car free of charge. They have those on hand to show potential customers. People selling their cars aren’t required to do so. So ask them for the VIN# of the car and go to carfax and pay the money to find out the car history. You’ll be glad you did. When my dad shopped around for a car, he got a carfax account for a month, in which time you can get reports for unlimited VIN#s. So when you get your account, be sure you have looked at a bunch of cars and know their #.

Personally, I prefer buying from people vs. dealership because people aren’t trained to be sleazy douche salesmen/women. Once I meet the person and talk to them, I can pretty much tell if they are being honest or if they are trying to hide something. But the dealership do give warranty, which is a big plus. In addition, paying the dealership can be more flexible than a single person. Dealerships offer installments etc, which you can also arrange with the bank while buying from a single person, but it could be more complicated.

As long as you buy a dependable car like Honda/Toyota, that is not too old, you should be fine. My dad is a pro at shopping for cars so I will ask him tonight if he has anything to add.

squirbel's avatar

I agree with PnL – buy a toyota or honda for age dependability.

DO NOT BUY FORD, CHRYSLER, OR KIA!

westy81585's avatar

@squirbel Actually the American brands have caught up (and in some areas surpassed) the foreign brands in dependability/longevity. If you buy an American car from the last 5–10 years, you’ve got just as good (if not better) chances of it lasting a long time.

Now quality of build (ala not using plastic and crappy materials), is a whole different story.

kevbo's avatar

Not a direct answer, but a smidgeon of advice/opinion. If you are hassle avoidant, just go to Carmax. Actually, look at the inventory on their Web site first and then go.

Alternatively, consider finding someone who thrills at negotiating the deal and ask them to do it on your behalf. This could be a family friend or a professional car hunter (both exist).

One other method I’ve used is to scan the classifieds for a few weeks to gauge prices and then pounce when an underpriced car surfaces.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Dealership pro: Certified pre owned cars have passed factory mandated inspections in order to qualify for extended factory warrantys. This can be cool when buying a 1–2yr old car that now has a 7yr warranty instead of an initial 3–4yr one like when it was new. This is why car business people prefer to buy used rather than new.

Dealership con: You’ll might pay up to $1000. more for a used car from the dealer in order to have the passed inspections, factory warranty, refurbishing and detailing.

crisw's avatar

@kevbo
“If you are hassle avoidant, just go to Carmax. ”
Not necessarily a good idea. Most CarMax cars are ex-fleet cars, and they may have sen some hard usage. I’ve also read many horror stories of duds from CarMax where the company would take no responsibility.

A few things regarding buying from a private party-
-You must use either Carfax or AutoCheck and make sure the car checks out!
-Always get the car inspected by a mechanic you trust before buying.
A couple of books I found really useful:
Car Buyer’s and Leaser’s Negotiating Bible
What Car Dealers Won’t Tell You

steve6's avatar

The dealer will do the paperwork and the possibility of a certified car. The dealer will give you more than your trade-in is worth on a used car. If you buy from an individual and have to sell your old car (more paperwork) you might get less than what the dealer would give you. On the other hand, there are always those little old ladies who only drive to church on Sundays. I bought a two year old 528i and the dealer gave me $9000 US for a car that was worth maybe $3000. He was about $4000 high on the 528 so I made $2000. It helped because I bought it the last week of December. His taxes benefit on the overpricing (takes a loss on my trade-in) and the late date (doesn’t pay tax on the 528).

jca's avatar

my parents bought my sis a used car from a guy and apparently the guy took the airbags out of it (they can fetch some bucks, we found out) and that’s something that a buyer would not know, i think. probably if you bought it from a reputable dealer that would not have happened.

crisw's avatar

@jca
That is one of the many reasons to always get the car inspected by a mechanic before buying.

fedupwitcaddys's avatar

USUALLY A PRIVATE OWNER IS GONNA BE MORE ON THE STRAIGHT UP WITH YOU VERSUS A SALESMAN AT A DEALERSHIP…..........HE’LL TELL YOU ANYTHING TO MAKE A SALE AND GET YOUR MONEY.JUST BOUGHT A ‘99 CADILLAC FOR $2000.00 FROM A DEALER IN DECEMBER, AND ALREADY I DONE PUT $1500.00 DOLLARS INTO IT AND IT STILL HAS MINOR PROBLEMS. ALL THE DEALER SAID WAS “OH THE THERMOSTATS PROBABLY STICKING” YEAH RIGHT, I DIDNT KNOW IT NEEDED A HEATER CORE, FUEL PUMP UNIT,....ETC. BUT THATS WHAT I GET FOR BEING A WOMAN THAT KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT CARS.ID RATHER BUT FROM A PRIVATE OWNER!

crisw's avatar

@fedupwitcaddys

Again- it’s why you always get that inspection first, especially for a 10 year old car at an independent car dealership!

And please- the “it’s because I am a woman” is, frankly insulting. I am a woman too.

Allie's avatar

@fedupwitcaddys Woah there, what’s with the caps lock?

psyla's avatar

@shilolo did all this discussion help you, or did it make you feel overwhelmed? Being a doctor, you might not be able to deal with the unknown very well since, in your profession, you always have to know all the facts. Buying a used car is a risk where you won’t know all the info & can’t predict the outcome. Did this discussion help you?

shilolo's avatar

@psyla Yes, the suggestions are helpful. I haven’t bought a car yet, and no, I am not overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is having 3 patients crash simultaneously while you’re the only doctor in the hospital. Buying a car, not so much.

psyla's avatar

Ah, yes. Good analogy! I’d say buying a car is like getting into a relationship. Once you “buy in” to it, the tendency is to be obligated to make the little repairs that keep it going. If repairs become annoying, we start thinking about a trade in. Sometimes we’re the car & sometimes we’re the driver. Sometimes we feel like the car is the driver!

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