Tips For Buying A Car From A Private Seller

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Buying a used car from a private seller can be a great way to find a hidden gem – or an absolute dud.

Here are some simple tips for getting the most out of finding a car from a private seller.

Get In touch

The first thing to do after thoroughly going over the offer is to call the seller directly. Ask them about anything that the advertisement itself doesn’t answer. Consider:

  • How long has the seller owned the vehicle?
  • Why are they selling it, exactly?
  • Are there any issues not clearly visible in the photos attached to the ad?
  • Will the vehicle pass a roadworthy inspection?




Write down what they say so you can check against it later.

Inspect the Vehicle

Inspect cars from private sellers at the seller’s address. If they refuse to let you inspect the vehicle, it’s usually a sign they’re hiding something.

Some points for inspecting a vehicle:

  • Try to arrange the inspection during the day in good weather.
  • Check under the car, bonnet, and carpet.
  • Make sure gaps between body panels are equal, otherwise it could indicate a poor repair job after a crash.
  • Check under the bonnet for oil leaks and use the dipstick to check the oil levels.
  • While checking the oil, check the cap for a white, mayonnaise-like substance. This can indicate a leaking head gasket which can be an expensive fix.
  • Always check the tyres to see how much tread is left, including any spares.
  • Inspect the seat belts to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Check how well the front seats reposition back and forth.
  • Inspect the switches and features on the console to make sure they’re all functioning.
  • Start the car when the engine is cold. This can reveal issues such as smoke or engine wear. If the car has been warmed up, the seller could be trying to hide something.


Test Drive

Whether it’s a private seller or brand new off the factory floor, you should always test-drive a car before buying.

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  • Turn the radio off so you can hear any unusual or worrying sounds.
  • Drive on different road surfaces to give yourself a sense of how the car behaves.
  • Get to highway speeds if possible to see how the engine copes under pressure.
  • Check the handbrake on a steep hill to see if it’s working properly.
  • If you’re driving a manual, check to see that the clutch doesn’t slip.
  • Check that the transmission goes up and down gears smoothly.
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Get a Professional To Look At It

If the car passes your personal satisfaction, get a mechanic or a member from a state roadside assist service to perform a thorough, professional check on the vehicle.

Get a PPSR Report

An essential step is to check the history of the car. Get a PPSR report from to look at whether the car is encumbered, been stolen, or ever written off. You can check the details you got from your phone call in point one against the details on the report.

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