How to buy a vehicle and look as happy as this guy!
Have an agreed upon way to transfer money between you and the seller.
Bring a blank Bill of Sale to fill out to show you have ownership of the vehicle. (just google “bill of sale or use this link http://www.jogero.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Car-Bill-of-Sale.jpg )
Do a bit of research on the vehicle you are considering buying for price and common failure modes of the vehicle (weak points, ex: this engine had a tendency to blow head gaskets, or the paint was bad on X year of this vehicle)
The Full Monty
While watching racing or walking through a car show is fun, there is nothing like having your own pride and joy to ride, drive, race, modify or show off. That being established, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from buying cars with my father, from my own experiences or guiding friends as they buy their first toys. To be clear most vehicles I buy are toys but most of the points in this article can be applied to toys or to basic transportation vehicles or even lawn mowers or tractors.
Often the first thing you will need to identify is how much money you are willing or able to spend.This will depend on the year of vehicle you are buying and your access to credit. I have been lucky to be buying vehicles less than 10 years old lately so I have had access to credit. If you are buying a car more than 10 years old or an ATV/dirtbike you will likely have to come up with the cash. When calculating what you are willing to spend on a vehicle remember there are usually a lot more costs than just the purchase price. You will have to transfer the title to your name. That will cost somewhere between $20-$100 (rough guess). When you transfer the title you will then have to pay a “road use tax” at least in Iowa. This is basically “the Man” getting you for sales tax. You will also have to pay for insurance within a certain number of days. I like my current insurance company because all my vehicles are covered through them so any new vehicles are automatically umbrella’ed under my coverage when I buy it, so when I drive it home I am already covered. Lastly, if you are like me you will likely want to immediately modify your vehicle in some way to make it yours. You should keep in mind any maintenance you will have to perform immediately. New tires? $400. Oil change? $30-40. New wipers? $10. Fixing a leaky rear window that you forgot to ask the previous owner about because that seems like a silly question to have to ask? Turns out that cost me about $50 and a days work. More on that in a later post.
Where to find a vehicle?
The easiest place to find vehicles these days is Craigslist. It breaks the whole country down into areas that you shouldn’t have to drive more than an hour to find something you want. Browsing craigslist is tons of fun since there is new stuff everyday. If you are looking for a specific vehicle make/model you can become a CL power user and search via SearchTempest.
Another way to find a certain make or model is to look on a forum for that vehicle. Most specialty vehicles have a dedicated forum and usually there is a thread for vehicles for sale. Often these vehicles are well taken care of as the previous owner took enough time to look at the vehicle specific forum. Ebay Motors is also another good place to look for vehicles. My personal preference is to know what a vehicle will cost, so on Ebay Motors I prefer to search for “buy it now” vehicles only. Often Ebay Motors listings will include contact information outside of Ebay. I am not condoning or condemning that practice. I will leave that up to your judgement.
It’s a great practice to bring at least one friend when vehicle shopping. Often you can get caught up in the excitement of buying a new vehicle and you can look over any problems the vehicle has. Review the following questions with your friend, bring someone you trust and enjoy the car buying experience.
Once you have found a vehicle and set up a meeting there are a myriad of questions that you should ask.
Does the seller have the title? If not why?
How long will it take to get the title? Will they hold the vehicle until they get the title for you?
Does the vehicle have a clean title?!? If not why?
Is the vehicle still under a loan? (In Iowa the bank holds the title until the loan is paid off.)
How long has the seller owned this vehicle? If it’s been a short time it’s ok to be a bit suspicious and ask a few more questions about that.
What is the primary reason for selling this vehicle?
What problems are there with the vehicle?
Then you should check the vehicle over for a few things:
Do you see any rust?
Do you see any dents or dings? If so where did they come from?
Take the vehicle for a drive. You should actually drive the vehicle a little “hard” during a test drive, at least I think so. You should probably ask the seller and be clear that if you break it you don’t buy it. I’m not saying hard as in reckless, but accelerate, brake, turn sharply a little, obviously safely. Note any strange noises, slow accelerations or hick ups etc.
The topic of cash is an interesting one all by itself. Do you really want to pay for an $8000 vehicle in cash? Will the person selling the car be willing to take a check? The last vehicle I helped a friend purchase, a pristine 1982 Yamaha Virago 920, we had to make an atm run the day before and the morning of, because he had hit his daily limit for withdrawing cash. If you don’t have a physical bank in your area, just getting a large amount of cash can be difficult! One time a friend of mine paid the seller via paypal. The important thing here is to establish with the seller before you show up how you will pay them, and have the money ready when you get there.
What to pay? The negotiation.
If you decide you are ready to buy the car the next thing to discuss is the price. Here you should always do your homework before you go. Kelly Bluebook is always a good place to start at least. It will get you in some sort of neighborhood if you have no clue what you should pay.
Hemmings Motor news, ebay, and craigslist are all good places to baseline similar vehicles too.
The most important thing when negotiating is that you never pay what seller is asking because he undoubtedly inflated that number because he was sure some donkey like you was going to come along and lowball him, and he was right. Ok that is a joke, but normally, in my opinion, people are willing to come down a few hundred to maybe even a few thousand, depending on exactly what you are buying. If you don’t ask you will never know. One thing though, often I will not enter a negotiation unless I’ve already decided to pay the asking price and I am mostly looking for a good deal. I’m not saying that’s the only way to do it, maybe you really won’t buy it unless the seller comes down $500 on a $10k car, but really, if you are that interested is $500 really worth you not having the car you really want? Sometimes the extra time you’d get driving the car will be worth the little extra money. Also you need to consider the time and money you are investing driving to look at all these vehicles. Gas isn’t free and neither is my time (maybe your’s is). In case anyone is interested in hiring me for anything my time starts at $100/hour, but I can be negotiated with also….
Once you have sealed the deal on your new beauty you are almost ready to take it home. You should always bring a blank bill of sale to get signed. This is always good to cover your butt. It is a document both you and the seller sign with all the relevant vehicle information and it is a legal document. You can use it in lieu of a title for 30 days (at least in Iowa). It also is something you can show the police officer when you get pulled over on your way home testing the limits in your new pride and joy.
I’ll share a quick story of when I bought my crotch rocket. I was cruising back to my home, it was about 60 miles away. As soon as i got on the freeway I thought “lets open it up and see what she does!” then i had a 2nd thought that said, “That’s too stereotypical crotch rocket guy I’ll just cruise” and not 1 minute later there was a cop camped between the 2 lanes. I was so happy that i had not gunned it because I probably would have ended up with a ticket and it probably would have been fast enough to lose my license! So let that be a lesson to you all!
Keep the rubber side down and go out and buy something!
Do you think I missed something? Let me know! The best thing about the internet is I can always edit it away!
What was the last (preferably fun) vehicle you bought?