Buying a used car from a private seller is potentially one of the riskiest things you can do with your money. And this time of year people start thinking about buying a newer car.
Take every precaution you can and if you have the slightest doubt have nothing to do with the car or its seller.
You have to ask: why is this person selling privately? Of course some do so for perfectly legitimate reasons. But others may not.
I was just looking at a recent statement from UK car check company HPI. On the basis of more than 10 million checks last year it came to the following conclusion: "There is plenty for used car buyers to be scared about."
It found one-in-three used cars it checked was hiding something. "Buyers need to have their wits about them to avoid the risk of buying a nightmare on wheels."
Nicola Johnson, of HPI says: "Used car fraudsters have more tricks than treats up their sleeves, leaving consumers at risk of paying over the odds for a car that could be stolen, written off or still on outstanding finance. Clocking is also a major problem, as unscrupulous sellers turn back the mileage in order to push up the price on their vehicle."
I know that is the UK experience and there is a certain amount of vested interest in having the company check cars for people but I have heard of some heartbreaking stories here too so there is no doubt about the risks involved.
So where at all possible buy from a reputable dealer, get a decent warranty and make sure the car has a service history.