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Buying a vehicle

When purchasing a vehicle of any kind, pre-owned or new, there are several steps you can take to help ensure a smooth purchasing process.

Check the price

Before you make an offer, do some research to make sure the price is fair and your offer is competitive. Good resources for finding out more about a vehicle’s value include KBB.com and carfax.com/value. You can look up vehicles by make, model, and year to get more info.

Certified pre-owned and used vehicles

Most automakers offer a certified pre-owned (CPO) program. Officially certified vehicles have been inspected, have a warranty, and may have other extras. Ask the seller for specifics.

Used vehicles that have not been certified may need additional research to verify their condition, service history, and warranty status.

Check the vehicle history report

Some cars on OfferUp have free vehicle history info provided by CarFax or VinAudit. A vehicle history report provides information about any previous accidents, changes in ownership, and title status. If the report is negative, it’s not recommended to move forward with a purchase. More about VinAudit reports

The listing may also include the vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). If needed, you can use the VIN to purchase the vehicle history report yourself from places like CarFax, VinAudit, or AutoCheck. If you don’t see the VIN, ask the seller if they’ll message it to you.

Check service records

It's a good idea to ask for service records so that you'll know if the vehicle has had regular and all required maintenance. If the owner doesn’t have printed records, check a vehicle history report from services like CarFax or AutoCheck. VinAudit does not provide service history at this time.

If service records aren’t available, an inspection of the vehicle is critical.

Inspect and test drive the vehicle

A personal and professional inspection is essential, especially when purchasing a used vehicle. Ideally, consult with a mechanic that you know and trust. A test drive is also important to help you determine if the vehicle is in good condition and will meet your needs.

Purchasing vehicles sight-unseen is never advised and is done at the buyer's own risk.

Transferring ownership and payment

Certain paperwork will need to be filed when you buy a vehicle. If you’re working with a dealership, they’ll typically help with the process. If you’re working with a private seller, be especially aware of the necessary steps to ensure everything is complete. Requirements can vary by state, so be sure to check with your local DMV first.

Registration requirements for the title transfer typically include a bill of sale, proof of title, the VIN, and a current odometer reading. Registering the car to you will also usually require proof of insurance, proof that you’ve paid sales tax, and certification that the car has passed inspections.

From a private seller

Prior to payment, ensure that the seller has properly transferred ownership. Request the title, or pink slip, and have them sign it over to you. You will also need to register the vehicle at the DMV and pay all appropriate tax and title fees.

When purchasing a car from a private seller, have your bank issue a certified cashier's check or pay with cash. Other forms of payment (i.e. electronic/wire transfers, gift cards, or other vouchers) are not recommended.

Make sure to meet in a safe, public place for high-value transactions. The app can help point you to local businesses and any recommended locations nearby where you can meet. More about official Community MeetUp Spots

From a dealership

When purchasing a car from a dealership, take care to review all fees and contracts prior to purchase. This often includes a documentation fee, smog fee, tax, and license fee.

Resources

http://www.vehiclehistory.gov/

http://www.carfax.com/

http://www.autocheck.com/vehiclehistory/autocheck/en/

http://www.kbb.com

Related links

Buying guides

How to search for cars

Tips for buyers

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