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Answering All Your Car Questions

Consumer tips: How to buy a used car privately

(NC)-Many people buy cars privately rather than through dealers. You can often save money going this route, however, keep in mind that if you have problems with the vehicle it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get any assistance or compensation from the vendor. Here are some more tips on how to get the best deal when buying a used car:

It's "buyer-beware" when purchasing a used car, so, be sure to take it to your mechanic for an inspection before handing over any money. If he (or she) finds the vehicle unsafe and/or in need of repairs, determine who will pay for them beforehand and include this in your written purchase agreement.

Check for liens against the vehicle. A lien means that money is owed on the vehicle and although the vendor is in possession of the vehicle, its legal claim belongs to someone else, such as a bank. If you buy a vehicle with a lien against it, you might be held responsible for future payment. Legislation differs across jurisdictions on the consequences of buying a vehicle with a lien. It is possible that the new owner may be required to pay the money owed or alternately you may risk having the vehicle seized. Contact your provincial or territorial office of consumer affairs for information specific to your jurisdiction or to find the organization in your jurisdiction responsible for conducting lien checks.

Ensure that the person you buy the car from is its registered owner. Remember to ask for repair bills and maintenance records.

If you decide to buy a vehicle from a private seller understand that he or she could be in the business of reselling poor-quality, stolen and/or rebuilt vehicles. Some of these people, frequently referred to as "curbers" or "curbsiders," may be involved with any number of other scams, such as tampering with the odometer or selling vehicles with liens against them.

The risk of curbsider scams makes it especially important that you get the used vehicle checked by a mechanic. You may want to question a mechanic you know and trust to see if the odometer has been rolled back. They can often tell by comparing wear and tear with the odometer reading.

Remember that you don't have the right to change your mind after a sale such as this. If you have problems with the vehicle it will most likely be impossible to get any assistance or compensation from the vendor. Litigation may be your only option.

As with any large ticket purchase, there's a lot to know in order to get the deal that's right for you. The sources of information about buying cars are limitless. It can be quite frustrating, and time consuming to get what you need. Until now that is. Thanks to a new Web site ( created by federal, provincial, territorial governments and their partners, Canadians now have easy access to hundreds of objective, reliable, current consumer information sources.