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Buying Privately?

OK, although here at Private Fleet, we work with customers to help them get the best deal on the sort of car they want (). But we do know that sometimes, people will use our site for research via the car reviews and then go and buy the car they want through a private sale that’s been advertised on an online auction site of the EBay type or through the good old classified ads in the newspaper.

For those that are buying through private sales directly from the owner rather than through us or from a dealer, here are a couple of tips to help you get a good deal (of course, you can avoid the hassle by going through us, etc. etc. in shameless plug for what we do).

1. Don’t agree to meet the car owner in a park or anywhere apart from their house. For one thing, you won’t be able to see those tell-tale pools of oil on the driveway or in the garage. For another thing, the owner will have driven to the meeting place, so when you see the car and try to start it up, it’ll be hot and you won’t have the chance of starting it from cold.

2. In a similar vein, the first thing you should do when inspecting the car is to put your hand on the bonnet. If it’s warm while the rest of the car isn’t, the owner has warmed it up. This is a warning sign about what the thing is like when starting from cold.

3. Sellers who are about to move overseas are more open to negotiation, as they just want to get rid of the thing for a price that’s more or less in the right vicinity. What’s more, the car is likely to be in reasonable condition – they would have been driving it still if they hadn’t been moving to Japan or wherever.

4. Wealthy people can be easier to haggle with, as a couple of hundred bucks don’t make much difference to them, even though it can mean a fortnight’s groceries to you. However, some wealthy people became wealthy by watching every single penny. In this case, keep your fingers crossed and hope that they sympathise with your situation as they were there once and know what it’s like to be on a tight budget, rather than Mr Scrooge.

5. Be very, very suspicious about cars being sold privately by mechanics or panel beaters. If they’re selling it, it’s probably because they can’t fix it up any further and want to get rid of the thing before it explodes. If you’ve ever had a courtesy car from a local Mum & Dad garage/mechanics (as opposed to a courtesy car from a specialist garage), you’ll know that these tend to be in rather rough condition, although they are road legal. Something being sold off is probably worse. Stay away from them unless you own a wrecker’s yard. Stay even further away from amateur car mechanics, as the resulting junk heap is a failed project and is best used as scrap or given a second life as a hen house.

6. Also be a bit dubious about cars that have been given after-market modifications such as lowering, fat tyres and sporty accessories. Guess how this car has been driven.

7. You are less likely to find them being sold off in private sales, but ex-taxis and ex-cop cars tend to have high mileage and good maintenance histories.