By the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program for El Hispanic News
When you purchase a car from a private seller, it is advisable to do your research and take your time. These kinds of sales are not protected under the same state and federal consumer laws as purchases from car dealers. In some cases, people have bought cars that were “lemons” with serious mechanical problems and had no recourse. Scammers have also been successful in luring victims with newspaper and online advertisements. Protect yourself with the tips included in this article.
First, determine your budget and the kind of car you would like to procure. When you have narrowed the search to a few makes and models, research the reliability of each one along with the car’s approximate value. You can research car values by make, model and year on Kelley Blue Book at www.kbb.com and www.edmunds.com.
Before meeting with a seller, talk to him or her on the phone. Trust your instincts. If something feels uncomfortable about the conversation or correspondence, discontinue further contact. Do not disclose your address or personal information prior to meeting. When arranging an appointment to inspect the vehicle, choose a well-travelled public place where you feel comfortable and meet during daylight hours. Bring a friend or family member to accompany you or inform them who you are meeting with, the time and location.
Before deciding to purchase a car, confirm the quality and ownership of the vehicle. Some steps you can take:
• Verify ownership. Check the vehicle title against the name and address on the owner’s State ID. Also, verify that the VIN number—the 17-character identification on the dashboard—matches the title. Make sure that the VIN has not been tampered with as this may indicate fraud.
• Test drive the vehicle.
• Arrange for a pre-purchase inspection. Your mechanic should perform a full inspection including checking the undercarriage of the car.
• Obtain vehicle records. Ask for the car accident history and maintenance records of the vehicle. Check the mileage listed on recent records against the current mileage on the odometer to ensure that there has been no fraud.
• Obtain a Vehicle History Report. For a fee, you can purchase one online to determine if there are any history of damages. To determine if the vehicle has been reported as stolen, but not recovered, or has been reported as a salvage vehicle, you can conduct a free VIN check on the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website: nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck
• Question below market prices. If the seller is offering the car well below market value, there may be something wrong with the car.
• The payment method and paperwork need to be considered in the transaction.
• Ensure that any agreements included in the sale are in writing and not merely a verbal understanding. If possible, arrange for someone to witness the transaction.
• Don’t pay a deposit so that the seller takes the car off the market. Only pay at the point of sale when you will assume possession of the vehicle.
• Fill out an Oregon Department of Motor Notice of Sale or Transfer of Vehicle and Registration together and Vehicle Bill of Sale with the seller. For more information, see:
https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/pages/vehicle/sell.aspx. If you are obtaining a loan for the car, work with the bank to determine how to proceed.
• Don’t pay cash for the car. Use a cashier’s check or other method so that you have a paper trail.
• Verify warranties. If the seller advertises that the car is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty or an extended warranty, contact the company to confirm its status and whether a transfer to a new owner is allowed.
Learn the difference between buying or leasing a car from a dealer with these Oregon Department of Justice guides:
Do the research before you buy a car from a private seller to spare yourself from post-purchase hassles. By doing so and arranging for safety for your meetings, your overall experience will be a positive one.
To learn more about the Crime Prevention Program, visit the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program website at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/cp for English; portlandoregon.gov/oni/prevencion for Spanish or call 503-823-4064.