Thinking of snapping up a new car at a bargain price? Then beware private sale pitfalls

1st February 2016


February can be a good month to bag a bargain on a new car, as dealers are keen to get rid of excess stock ahead of the March registration plate changes but would-be buyers are being warned to do their homework.

While many people are happy to part-exchange their current car for a new one, other drivers opt for a private sale to get a better deal.

However, this route requires more work and is certainly not without its pitfalls.

Matt Oliver spokesman at Car Insurance explained: “Private car sales can be a great deal for both buyers and sellers but to get the best price and avoid being conned – you really do need to know what you are doing.

“So, before buying a car through the small ads it’s important to take the time to check the condition of the vehicle, both the bodywork and mechanics, and ensure that the paperwork is all present and correct.” has produced a guide to help drivers safely navigate their way through the process.

The guide, ‘Buying and selling cars privately’, outlines the key steps and practicalities involved in the private sale of a vehicle – from preparing the car and relevant paperwork ready for a sale, inspecting the car’s condition, status and history, organising a test drive to making and receiving payment.

It also highlights different types of scams buyers and sellers should watch out for including rogue traders posing as private sellers and how to spot dodgy payment practices.

Oliver added: “A test drive is crucial in helping to establish whether a car is in good running order and is right for you – comfortable and easy to drive. By law the car being test driven must be insured, this can be arranged through either the seller or buyer’s car insurance.

“A common held myth is that a fully comprehensive policy gives the policyholder third party cover to drive any car. Not all policies do. Therefore, if you’re planning to road test a privately sold car you’ll need to check with your insurer.

“Another thing to consider is that if you’re involved in an accident during a test drive, third party only insurance will not cover any damage to the car you are driving.”

Oliver explained that a better option would be for the buyer or seller to contact their insurer to see if they offer a temporary policy to cover test drives.

If they don’t, short-term car insurance cover can be arranged through a comparison site.

Alternatively, a buyer could add a car they wish to test drive as an additional temporary vehicle to their policy or the seller could add a would-be buyer as an additional driver on their insurance.”

Oliver added: “When a potential buyer is inspecting or test driving your car, don’t just hand over the keys and let them get on with it. Stay with them.

“Before setting off on a test drive, check that the driver has a valid driving licence and sit in the passenger seat before handing over the keys. Otherwise you run the risk of the car being stolen.”

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