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If it’s time for you to buy a used car, how are you planning to shop for one? You have two main routes to find used vehicles, including dealerships in your area as well as cars for sale by owner. When you’re shopping for a used car among the for sale by owner options in your area, there are a number of hassles and headaches you’ll want to be aware of. Some are just minor inconveniences, some of them are clear deal-breakers, and some are red flags that mean you’ll want to take a closer look.
It would be nice if private owners selling a car had to take a short course in how to write a car ad. It would save car shoppers a lot of time and frustration. Some ads barely give enough information about a car for you to even decide if it’s worth trying to find out more. A good car listing is going to give you the year, make, model, mileage, what kind of condition the car is in, and some its main features.
Private owners who are serious about selling will go even further by describing in detail what it was they loved about this car, why they are now willing to part with it, what maintenance or repairs have been done recently, and other details that really give you a depth of knowledge about the vehicle. A bare-bones ad leaves too many questions unanswered, which means you’ll have to try to find out more by being in touch with the owner, which may or may not be easy to do in a timely fashion if they’re hard to reach or don’t get back to you. Or you’ll have to make an appointment to actually see the vehicle yourself to make judgement. Again, if the owner isn’t on top of things, the appointment may be difficult to make, the owner might not show, and so on. Not every private owners is as conscientious as you might think they should be if they really want to sell their car.
These days, most private owners are listing their car for sale on various online platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and dozens of others where they get to upload some number of photos of the vehicle. Sounds useful, right? It is, but only if they post kind of series of photos like you’ll see on most dealership websites. To get a detailed view of the vehicle, there should be at least 12 photos, but more is even better, up to as many as 24. If there’s only a handful of photos, you can’t help but wonder what the seller is not showing you. Granted, some platforms where cars are listed limit the number photos that can be posted for free. But if a private owner is serious about selling a quality car, shouldn’t they be willing to invest a small amount of money into doing it right?
We’ve already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating. The biggest hassles and frustrations when you’re trying to buy a car from a private owner is how engaged they are or aren’t in the process of selling, including communicating with prospective buyers. Here you are trying to find a great used car and the seller isn’t getting back to in a timely fashion. Or they aren’t organized in making appointments for showings and test drives, or don’t seem to have much availability for appointments, or worse don’t show up for an appointment they made with you. This lack of quality communication is probably the complaint we’ve heard the most from people frustrated with trying to buy a car from a private owner.
Part of the reason private owners decide to sell their car on their own rather than trading in at a dealership is because they want to get more money than they’d get on a trade-in deal or selling outright to a dealership or car-buying service. If you like the price, great. But what if you don’t? How willing is the private owner willing to come down from the price they originally listed? This process of haggling can be stressful for both parties involved, and most private owners are reluctant to come down much from the original asking price.
A dealership has a reputation they want to establish and maintain for doing right by customers, though some are more committed to this than others. If they have a lot of unhappy customers, those unsatisfied people will post negative reviews online and this can hurt their reputation and their business. But none of this really applies to private owners.
If you buy a car from a private owner and it turns out to be a lemon or has some serious issues the owner didn’t tell you about, there’s no place where you can leave them a review, and even if you could, it’s not like they have a steady stream of customers they’re trying to satisfy. A private owner selling their car is a one-off event for all intents and purposes, or one that only occurs occasionally. The only way for you to address a problem is if the owner is willing to address it as well. If the owner won’t make it right, then your only choice is to sue them in small claims court, which is a whole new level of hassles and headaches.
It’s certainly true that thousands and thousands of people buy cars from private owners every year and have a wonderful experience and get a great car. But there are probably just as many who experience way more hassles and headaches than they bargained for and aren’t happy with how the process went or the car they bought.
You can avoid all those hassles and headaches at Auto City. We’ve reinvented car shopping to be something people actually enjoy! We only sell high-quality used cars, so you never have to worry about buying a lemon. We offer a three-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked, in case you have second thoughts after your purchase. We rock at car loans if you need to find financing regardless of your credit score or credit history. And we put competitive up-front prices on every vehicle that are firm, which means you don’t have to waste time or get stressed out about haggling over the price. This is how we do things differently at Auto City, so check out our inventory now!