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Advice when looking to buy a used truck.
Most of the time, when you think of purchasing a used truck, you automatically turned to the Used Truck sales team at your local dealership. However, more and more people are turning toward private sellers because they don't have to worry about the dealer's "cut". Trucks sold through private sellers are almost always cheaper than those sold at a dealership and you don't have to worry about high-pressure sales tactics (for the most part). However, you have to be careful when evaluating a used truck sold through a private seller because you can't guarantee where the car has been or what damage it has sustained.
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Following are six tips for evaluating a used truck when you buy from a private seller.
Ask About the Truck's Previous Owners. I prefer to purchase a used truck when it has only had one or two previous owners. This cuts down on the possibility that the truck was abused or that it suffered damage that isn't reported on the title or by the seller. Sometimes, it's impossible to verify the number of previous owners, but it's always a good idea to ask. If the truck has had more than two previous owners, you might want to consider taking a pass.
Request All Maintenance Records. When I purchased a used truck from a private seller in college, I was shocked to find that he had a binder filled with every maintenance record he had for the truck. Oil changes, tire rotations, safety inspections and even truck parts purchased at the store were listed in chronological order with the original receipts. This made me feel better about purchasing his used truck because I knew that he had kept spotless records. If a private seller has such records, you can be safer in assuming that the truck has been well maintained.
Insist the Truck be Inspected. Before you hand over cash to a private seller, insist that your mechanic look the vehicle over. A private seller who balks at this suggestion is a major red flag. Even though you have to pay for this inspection, it shouldn't cost you more than $200 and you'll feel better knowing that the truck won't break down five miles down the road.
TIP: Don't accept the story that the private seller has recently had the vehicle inspected or tuned up, even if he provides a receipt. Likewise, choose your own mechanic rather than trusting his.
Look for Signs of Cosmetic Damage. If a used truck has several dings, scrapes, dents and other cosmetic damage, it might be an indication of mechanical or body damage. Again, have your mechanic inspect it and ask for the way the damage occurred. If the private seller doesn't know or refuses to reply, look somewhere else. It isn't worth it to purchase a used truck when you don't know about possible damage.
Obtain a CarFax Report. Although this isn't a fool-proof way to ascertain a used truck's entire history, it will certainly turn up any major damage that's occurred. CarFax.com allows you to search by the vehicle's VIN number for possible damage, including: flooded trucks, lemons, salvaged trucks, rebuilt vehicles, major accidents, fleet trucks, fraudulent odometers and others. You can get unlimited vehicle history reports for $24.95 or a single vehicle history report for $19.95.
Test Drive the Vehicle. Never write a check for a used truck to a private seller unless you have taken the vehicle on a thorough test drive. If possible, drive on the highway as well as on surface streets and check for any strange lights. Make sure that the headlights, the turn signals, the emergency break, the seat belts, the hazard lights and the gear shift are all in working order.
Buying a used truck through a private seller can be a more enjoyable experience than buying from a used truck lot, but be aware of the risks and respond to them accordingly.
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