I never knew just how long it would take, and how difficult it would be, buying a used car. Being that I was a complete car buying novice, I did not realize that car purchasing was a lengthy process, fraught with anger, disappointment, and frustration. After my wife and I found what seemed to be a good deal on craigslist, we did a test drive, and made sure that we were protected by getting a vehicle history report and a mechanical inspection. Everything seemed to be just perfect, and we were willing to buy the car. The problem was, we had no idea what to do next. To further complicate matters, the seller was an immigrant to Canada and did not know the process either.
No problem, we thought, Google will solve all of our problems. We looked up through our local insurance agency what steps we had to take, arranged a time to meet with the seller, and decided to do everything in one day. Unfortunately, a number of problems arose.
First, we had to get access to our money. Again, this shouldn’t be an issue, as we had already transferred all our savings from our online bank account to our chequing account. There was a branch not two blocks from the sellers house, so we would stop by and get the money on our way there. Except when we got there, the branch was closed. Not only that, because it was the Saturday of a long weekend, every single branch was closed. Yes, we definitely should have thought of that ahead of time, but we didn’t, as we are new to this whole process. Simply writing a cheque would have been convenient for us, but obviously the seller would not want to accept the promise of money in exchange for his vehicle.
So we went to the post office in an attempt to buy money orders, but for some strange reason, the post office will only sell you money orders up to the amount of $999.99. Therefore we would have to buy many multiples of them, at $5.50 each. Okay, well, that’s the price we pay for being stupid, right? Except the transaction won’t go through. I guess there is some sort of limit on our account that won’t let us debit quite a few thousand of dollars. Well then, we thought to ourselves, let’s just do them one at a time. Hurray! The first one works. Boo! The second one didn’t.
That ended that long day of frustration and not being able to buy the car that we had the money for, but simply could not get access to. We even tried calling their call center, but of course, that was closed too. Honestly, doing my banking through a credit union is a wonderful thing, except when it comes to situations like these. All the major banks were still in business on the Saturday of a long weekend, just not our small local credit union.
So after the long weekend we decide to try to buy the car again. Luckily for us the seller wasn’t in a rush to sell it, and was content to wait for us to get him the money. This time the bank was open. We were actually able to save enough that by raiding our emergency fund we could pay for the car outright. So we got a registered check for the majority of the cost of the vehicle, had a money order for another thousand, and got cash just in case we were able to bring down the price of the vehicle through negotiation, as the mechanical inspection revealed that the tires would need to be replaced quite soon.
So on the Tuesday, we met with the seller and started to go over the paperwork that needed to be filled out. At this point, we realized that his wife was on the registration of the vehicle, and as such, would need to sign off on the sale of the car. Except she’s at work, and won’t be home for another couple of hours. Perfect. Just in time for all the insurance places to close, and prevent us from getting our vehicle yet again. So in desperation, we end up calling an insurance salesperson who I found about through a coworker. She offers the wonderful service of doing all the registration paperwork for you, and will meet you anywhere you want, but the problem was that her insurance quote was $30/month more expensive than any other place we asked. But we wanted the car, so we called her anyways, and a few hectic hours later we were driving home in our new vehicle.
Oh, and as for negotiating, it lasted about 30 seconds when I made the offer to split the cost of new tires with the seller, and he said no, the price was not negotiable. Fair enough.
Regardless, the sale of the vehicle finally went through, and we are now the proud owners of a slightly used vehicle. It has (almost) all the features we wanted, is the fancy classy model, has really, really nice floor mats, and was the perfect price. Now we just have to worry about paying for insurance, and gas, and maintaining the vehicle, and not getting into an accident… oh dear.
Tips For Buying a Used Car in a Private Sale
- Negotiate the final cost of the vehicle before you are invested in the car. If you wait as long as I did, then when they simply say “no”, you have no bargaining room to walk away or threaten to leave.
- Get a registered cheque ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you’re not sure on the final cost of the vehicle, get one for the cost as you plan on initially offering, and bring cash for the rest of the asking price (or up until what you are comfortable with paying for the car).
- Don’t use money orders, because if you’re buying a $15,000 car, and you have to pay $5.50 for each money order, then that would be $82.50 in extra fees that you’re tacking on yourself.
- Go over the paperwork. Know who has to sign what, and make sure that all the parties involved are there at the time of sale.
Learn from my mistakes!