Feature article

How to avoid being misled when buying a car privately

Buying a car privately is great for getting a bargain, but comes with less protection. Here’s how to avoid being misled.

Buying a car privately comes with risks, but it also offers a great opportunity to secure a bargain. If you learn more about what to look for in the car buying process, and have a bit of mechanical knowledge or know someone who does, you’ll be able to buy with confidence. Check out our top tips to avoid being misled when buying a car privately.

While viewing a car

Because you have less protection than when buying from a dealer, you need to be extra diligent with checking the car out thoroughly in person. Pay close attention to all details of the vehicle and how it handles during a comprehensive test drive. Ask the seller lots of questions relating to how they’ve used the car and any issues they’ve encountered with it.

Top tip: don’t rely on the Warrant of Fitness (WoF) to reassure you that the car is roadworthy and reliable. The WoF gives no information about the car’s mechanical history. 

Remember that private sellers don’t need:

  • To be registered.
  • To display a consumer information notice (CIN).*
  • To comply with the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) or Fair Trading Act (FTA).

*The CIN is a window card that dealers are legally required to display on all vehicles they have on sale. If the CIN contains any false or misleading information the dealer may be liable under the Fair Trading Act 1986. Dealers are required to disclose if a motor vehicle has been used as a security for a debt. 

Before you buy

Research, research, research. Make sure that you know exactly what you want and think about exactly why you want it. How are you going to use the car and what are your vehicle requirements? Does the car you’re considering tick all of your boxes? Have a solid budget in mind and be aware of how much you want to spend on the vehicle. Check out the Trade Me Background Check to learn the vehicle history and make sure to get a pre-purchase vehicle inspection.

What rights do you have after the purchase?

Despite having less protection than buying from a dealer, you do still have some rights if things don’t work out as expected:

  • If you were persuaded to buy the car under false pretences.
  • If you were sold a car that the seller didn’t have the legal right to sell.
  • If you were sold a vehicle from a seller who should actually be registered as a motor vehicle trader*.

If someone sells more than 6 cars a year, they need to be registered as a trader.

What if the seller misled you about the car’s condition?

It’s important to make sure you keep copies of any adverts the seller posted about the vehicle, all of the details listed and any promises they made about the type and condition of the car. This way you’ll have proof if it turns out they’ve misled you.

What if there’s money owing on the car?

By obtaining a MotorWeb money owing check you’ll be able to see the full security status of the vehicle. This will help you avoid the car being repossessed if you inherit it with debt owing on the vehicle.

Trade Me Background Check will also reveal if the car is registered as stolen. If this is the case, walk away from the sale and be sure to report the seller. And if you’re worried about the odometer reading being inaccurate, the vehicle history report will reveal if this is the case.

What if the seller becomes unreachable after the purchase?

This is where Trade Me really helps you to buy with confidence, as it’s not likely that a seller will simply ‘disappear’ after the sale. If it turns out they haven’t been honest about any aspect of the car, you can report them to the site and leave an honest review. This makes it in the best interests of all sellers using Trade Me to be honest.

Remember the positives

It’s important to remember that buying from a private seller is often a smooth, hassle free process, and when buying this way you’re highly unlikely to encounter attempts at up-selling or adding on extra costs. Plus, Trade Me Background Check gives you greater knowledge of the vehicle you’re considering and enhances buyer confidence. Use our buying advice for further empowerment on your car buying journey.