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5 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Used Car

Buying a car? The price tags may be be tempting but here's what you need to know so you don't end up with a lemon.

With the recent Covid-19 outbreak, more and more people are understandably trying to avoid public transportation. Ubers and Lyfts can get pricey, so buying a used car is the next best thing... right? Being in the DMV business for almost 10 years, DMVSTOP has seen it all and we have identified some common pitfalls you can absolutely avoid. The last thing you want is to buy a car for what you thought was a steal, and have it turn out to be a useless hunk of metal in your driveway. Here are 5 things you should know before buying a used car:

1. Make sure the person you are buying from is who they say they are:

Too often do I hear the story, " I bought it from a guy off of craigslist who said he was a dealer and all I got was the title. When I tried to register it, I couldn't and now when I try to call him, his phone is disconnected."

This can happen to anyone, especially when we're excited to finally have found the car you want to buy. When meeting with the seller, you should always ask them to show you their ID to verify their identity. Anyone who is unwilling to show you their ID is clearly up to no good and you should walk away from that sale with no regrets.

When buying a used car from a private seller, you should bring a Bill of Sale with you. There are many free printable options available online. You can even go to the DMVs website and print one of their free templates. When buying a used car from a dealership, they will give you a bill of sale. It must have their company letterhead or it wont be accepted for registering or transferring the title over to your name. Make sure the information contains only your name as the buyer and they list the sales price correctly. Often times, there will also be reassignment documents that come along with the title. Again, read the paperwork and make sure it is signed over to you correctly.

2.Check the Paperwork throughly:

When you are buying a used car, you need to get the title. In the case of older or non-titled vehicles, you will need the transferable registration from the seller. Be sure to read the entire front and back of the title and sign in the correct place. If the title is ripped, crossed out with alterations, taped together, etc, there is a very high chance your paperwork will be rejected by the DMV when you try to register it. If you are buying from a private seller, this is the only proof of ownership you have so thoroughly check the paperwork before you buy.

If you see that the title is salvaged or reconstructed, this is an official indication that the vehicle has been damaged and is considered a total loss by an insurance company that paid out on a damaged vehicle claim. It could have been in a flood, an accident, a fire, and/or car parts may have been stolen. A salvage titled car purchase can save you money in the short term due to its low price tag but will likely create headaches and cost more down the line. Depending on the state you are trying to register your salvaged vehicle, there may be different requirements such as a salvaged vehicle inspection which will cost you time and money before you can legally be on the road.

Keep in mind, some titles may require a notary stamp. Most vehicles that are older than 1973 don't come with a title so spend some time doing your research. If you would like us to review your documents for you, you can visit for more information.

3. Run a Vehicle History Report:

A critical step in any used car purchase is getting a vehicle history report. It provides a wealth of information about the cars past so you can make an informed decision about whether to buy the vehicle and how much you should pay for it. Vehicle history reports provide details about a car's previous ownerships, accident history, title status, mileage, and more. You'll just need to know the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) to get started. A single Carfax report costs about $39.99 but you can use any reputable reporting platform.

4. Take it to a trusted mechanic to have a mechanical inspection done:

So you decided that you love the car! The next step is to take the car to a trusted mechanic, preferably one you already have a relationship with. Having a mechanical inspection done is certainly not a requirement but it is highly recommended and may save you thousands in the long run. It can cost around $100-$200 but If the inspection report is clean, you can buy with increased confidence. If you find there will be repairs needed, you can back away from the sale or negotiate a lower price.

A mechanical inspection should include:

  • Test driving the car with the mechanic over bumps, hills, and potholes, to reveal possible suspension issues and engine problems.

  • Verifying the functioning of equipment on the car.

  • Confirm the condition level of the car such as tire wear and the condition of the brake pads.

  • Reveal hidden problems with the body, frame or engine.

  • Checks trouble codes that can reveal mechanical or electrical problems with an on board diagnostic test for vehicles from 1996 or newer.

5. Be prepared to walk away:

After you have gone through steps 1 through 4, if you are still feeling hesitant about the vehicle, whether it be due to the price or the quality of the car itself, it is okay to walk away from the sale. Shop around until you feel confident about buying the right vehicle for you. Remember, you may be in a rush to get on the road but taking some time to do your homework can save you more time and money in the long run! Good luck on your search and when you are ready to register the vehicle, do it the smart way with DMVSTOP! You"ll never fill out any forms, wait on any lines or deal with long wait times with our service!



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