Got the what?
March 9, 2009 5:37 PM   Subscribe

So remember when I asked about getting a car loan? Well, I got one (yay!). Now I've been to a used car dealership and found the perfect car (yay!). Only that's not the end of the story...

I laid out my budget restrictions to the dealership, and had a test drive with a great little car (Chevy Aveo). I was happy, they were happy, I went home to get my loan paperwork. By the time I came back, they were hemming and hawing and telling me that they simply couldn't sell the car for what they had told me and that I'd have to pay $1,000 more. Since I refuse to be strongarmed I told them I wouldn't be buying a car from them, and left.

Flash forward to now, when I have found another Aveo being sold by a private seller. The carfax report checks out, I'm going to test drive it this week. But I'm nervous to be buying from a person and not a licensed dealer... I already know that I love this make/model of car, that it's right in my budget, and that it will suit me best for what I'm looking for. Is there anything else I should ask in this situation, since it's private seller and not a dealer? Any warning signs or red flags to look for? What is the (if any) recourse I can take if this car breaks down a week after buying it?
posted by thatbrunette to Shopping (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just an idea, have you maybe been back to the dealership to see if the original Aveo is still there? If it is, it's likely they'll be singing a different tune.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:41 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Search for services in your area that will inspect a car. I can't think of any services you'd lose by not buying through the dealership other than a monumental headache. Make sure you drive back by the dealership afterward and gloat.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:42 PM on March 9, 2009

Many independent garages offer a pre-purchase inspection for around $60. They'll let you know if there are any outstanding issues with the car that the seller might not know about or divulge.
posted by asterisk at 5:44 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: Ask the seller if they mind allowing you to have a mechanic check it out. I spent about $75 letting my mechanic (whom I trusted and didn't work for a dealership) give a car I was interested in a once-over. The car had some oil leak issues and a bunch of other small problems that would've cost a LOT to fix, but which weren't readily apparently.

These things don't show up in a Car Fax.

Ask why the seller is selling the car. Ask if it's had its routine maintenance--and if they have the maintenance records, like receipts for oil changes, or other work done on it.

Clearly, pop the hood and check to see if there are any GAPING flaws. Check to make sure all the lights work, the air conditioning works, the wipers work, the car shifts properly, it rides comfortably, and all that.

There may be *some* recourse, in that there are lemon laws, but whether or not they apply in your state, and the extent to which they apply is a state-by-state thing. Research yours, and be aware that just because there's "technically" a law in place doesn't mean you'll be able to collect from a private seller.

I bought my car online, after having about a four hour conversation with the seller, and exchanging SEVERAL photos. I also had a bill of sale drawn up that required the vehicle arrive in good working order, but that would've been difficult to enforce. The guy was nice, extremely forthcoming, and about 4 weeks later, my car showed up on my doorstep. I literally bought it sight-unseen, no test drive. A bit crazy, perhaps, but I felt comfortable, and fell in love with the car. In the end, it worked out swimmingly--I got a good deal, and the car has never caused me any troubles. (She's a bit older and some interior things are breaking a bit, but no mechanic issues at all.)

Call a mechanic and ask what they'd charge to just do a once-over and check the basics. They'll be able to tell far better than you if a car has anything worryingly wrong with it--oil leaks are a big one that can be expensive to fix and difficult to properly detect.

Again, try to feel out why the seller is selling and use some judgment there. Clearly, people can lie, but I find that at least asking and trying to establish a rapport helps a lot. If something seems shady or off, you can still walk away.

Good luck!
posted by disillusioned at 5:46 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: By the time I came back, they were hemming and hawing and telling me that they simply couldn't sell the car for what they had told me and that I'd have to pay $1,000 more. Since I refuse to be strongarmed I told them I wouldn't be buying a car from them, and left.

First, congratulations on standing up for yourself. This happened, I bet, because you've got financing. They were planning to make a shitload from you on exorbitant interest rates, and when you arranged third-party financing, they realized, "shit, there goes all that money we had planned to make from her." So they reneged on the deal. Losers and assholes.

Second, as long as you have someone inspect the car, I don't think you should be worried about buying from a private person. Every city has someone who does inspections for a flat-fee. It's true, you won't likely have any recourse if it breaks down, but most used car dealers sell cars "as is" unless they are still under manufacturer's warranty.
posted by jayder at 5:54 PM on March 9, 2009

In a way, the private seller may actually be less likely to screw you than a shady used-car dealership. I mean, think about the way they tried to abuse you in the lead up to the purchase... a private seller may at least have a conscience or fear repercussions.
posted by wfrgms at 6:15 PM on March 9, 2009

This is not at all unusual for dealers, and you were right to say no thanks. If you want to, you can call back, tell them you found the same car for a better price, and can they do any better than that, all included? If it's a no, it'll be a flat no because they don't stand to make any money on the car at that price. If they have room to negotiate, they will, but you have no reason to buy now for more than the price the private seller is quoting. I do have friends who are willing to do this dance with dealers for months, especially on new cars, but I don't have the patience. Buying a car is a big enough pain without all the gamery. You are happy with your chosen car and your loan. Do have an independent mechanic check it out - the seller shouldn't mind. If s/he does, don't buy. Base the final sale on the outcome of the inspection. If there is work to be done (something like an overdue brake job,etc) you can ask for a few bucks to come off the price, unless you feel the price already takes this into account.
posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: Take it to your local Chevy dealer. Yeah. Even if it's the same one.
Heh,heh. The mechanics won't screw you. They hate the sales people.
posted by notreally at 6:50 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: A couple of things:

#1: private sellers can be terrific folks, or thieves, or somewhere in between, just like dealers. So educate yourself on a resonable price for the car you want in the condition you want, and don't budge (much) from it.

#2: paying a little money to a mechanic to look the car over and check things out is a *very* good idea. If your own knowledge keeps you for overpaying for the desired condition, this mechanic's knowledge helps you determine if the car's really in the condition you want it to be.

#3: I'm glad you like the Chevrolet Aveo, and I sincerely hope you end up happy with it for years to come. However, do consider sources such as Consumer Reports and to make sure you're getting something that was reasonably reliable and safe when new. The more informed you are, the better.
posted by davejay at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: Congrats on the loan! Did you get it from USAA? Were they helpful?

I would take it to a car mechanic to be checked before I bought it, but I don't think you have much more to fear from an individual than a dealership.

I thought davejay had a good idea about checking with Consumer Reports, too. Maybe bring that information to the mechanic so the trouble areas can be checked especially well. They have a reliability history report for the Chevy Aveo, which tells you scores based on respondents who report problems in the 17 trouble spots. In case you don't have a subscription, here's what they said:

- Engine, Major: This includes engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain.
2004: Very bad
2005: Excellent
2006 and 2007: Average

- Engine, Minor: This includes oil leaks, timing belt, accessory belts, engine mounts, engine knock or ping.
2004, 2005, and 2007: Very bad
2006: Below average

- Engine, Cooling: This includes radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.
2004: Very bad
2005: Average
2006 and 2007: Above average

- Transmission, Major: This includes transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, premature clutch replacement.
2004 - 2007: Excellent

- Transmission, Minor: This includes gear selector or linkage, coolers and lines, rough shifting, slipping transmission, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, hydraulics (clutch master or slave cylinder).
2004: Very bad
2005 and 2006: Above average
2007: Excellent

- Drive System: This includes driveshaft or axle, CV joint, wheel bearing(s), differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, stability control, electrical failure.
2004: Above average
2005 and 2007: Below average
2006: Excellent

- Fuel System: This includes check-engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel tank, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.
2004, 2006, and 2007: Very bad
2005: Below average

- Electrical System: This includes alternator, starter, battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure, sensors or module.
2004: Below average
2005: Average
2006: Very bad
2007: Above average

- Climate System: This includes blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, defrost, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.
2004: Average
2005: Very bad
2006: Below average
2007: Excellent

- Suspension: This includes shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion) power steering, wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.
2004: Average
2005 and 2006: Below average
2007: Excellent

- Brakes: This includes premature wear, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, master cylinder, calipers, antilock system (ABS), parking brake, brake failure.
2004 and 2006: Above average
2005: Average
2007: Below average

- Exhaust: This includes muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.
2004, 2005, and 2006: Excellent
2007: Above average

- Paint/Trim: This includes paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling), loose exterior trim or moldings, rust.
2004: Very bad
2005 and 2006: Above average
2007: Average

- Body Integrity: This includes squeaks or rattles, seals and/or weather-stripping, air or water leaks, loose interior trim and moldings, wind noise.
2004 and 2005: Below average
2006 and 2007: Average

- Body Hardware: This includes windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, sliding doors, mirrors, seat mechanism(s), seat belts, sunroof, convertible top, glass defects.
2004 and 2005: Average
2006: Very bad
2007: Below average

- Power Equipment and Accessories: This includes cruise control, heated or cooled seats, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, alarm or security system, backup camera/sensors.
2004: Below average
2005: Average
2006: Above average
2007: Excellent

- Audio System: This includes navigation systems, radio speakers, CD or DVD player and changer, cassette player, antenna, satellite radio, video screen, communication system.
2004: Below average
2005 and 2007: Above average
2006: Excellent
posted by Houstonian at 8:12 PM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the good advice! (Again :) )

And yes, Houstonian, I went through USAA. Their customer service is amazing, beyond amazing. I felt like I could meet up with those people for Christmas dinner, that's how welcome and comfortable they made me feel. =)
posted by thatbrunette at 9:50 PM on March 9, 2009

Buying from a private seller is really no riskier than buying from a used car lot. They can't offer third-party warranties like a lot can, but that's really no big deal. A car lot is going to try to hit you with all sorts of extra fees, like the doc fee, and others. They also have to charge tax. I'm not sure what state laws pertain to you as far as any taxes, but here in Arizona we pay no taxes on a private party car sale. Car lots can also be either honest as the day is long or shadier than the night. I work with a guy who shoots photos for car ads every two weeks at all the used lots. He's also a mechanic. Some of the things that go on at those used lots either should be, or is, illegal. Other lots, however, he's given glowing reviews to; he even bought a car from one. (This lot would send vehicles to a mechanic before being put out for sale. They'd fix everything needed. Then they'd back the car after it was sold. I bought a car from this lot as well; they had done the timing belt, clutch, water pump, and cam seals.) Whether you buy from a lot, or a private party, a mechanic inspection is a good investment.

BTW, the Consumer Reports history on the Aveo shown above is very alarming. I'd do some more research, and look into other vehicles first. A comparable car would be the Hyundai Accent, which has been getting stellar reliability ratings for a while now. It also gets very good gas mileage. There's a lot here selling brand new '09 Accents for $7995 + taxes and fees, which is cheaper than some lots have been selling used Aveos for. Accents are also pretty easy to find cheap from private sellers, and you should be able to find one in your price range. Shop around, and don't get too attached to any car, at least until you've researched it.
posted by azpenguin at 9:52 PM on March 9, 2009

Nthing the mechanic check; best $75 or so you'll ever spend on a car. Dunno if you know of a reputable mechanic, if you're in an area where there's something like Yelp, but shouldn't be too hard to find someone good.

Also Nthing that there are better choices than Aveos. Much better. Understood that you might not be able to splash out for something like a Mini or a Honda Fit, but there's better bang for the buck in terms of driving and likely reliability. Too, no guess if you have any idea how long you want to keep the car, but if you're not looking to drive it into the ground, you're likely to get slaughtered if you try to sell it or trade it in.

It's worth considering something a couple years older in excellent condition so you get a better-driving, better-quality car.
posted by ambient2 at 12:23 AM on March 10, 2009

For any used car, get it inspected, and get the VIN from the registration (tell the seller the inspector requires it) and check it on to see if it's ever been salvaged. I've bought cars from dealers and private sellers, and have done just fine. My current car was totaled, but the mechanic said it was okay, and the price reflected it.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2009

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