Used cars seem to be for sale everywhere you turn in Raleigh these days. So if you’re in the market to buy one, you’ll have plenty of choices. But who you buy your car from is almost as important as what kind of you buy.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of the two most popular options—individual sellers and local used car dealerships.
You can find hundreds of ads on Craig’s List and other classified ad websites from people trying to sell their own car for more than they’d get at trade-in–especially, if they’re not planning to buy another car at all. Or, they may just be looking for a fast buyer because they need the cash.
- You can meet the current owner of the car (and find out if it really IS a little old lady who just drove it to the grocery store every week!), who should be able to answer any questions about the car’s history
- The actual purchase transaction is quick and easy–involving little more than handing over your money for the title and keys
- You may get a better price, since a private seller doesn’t have to worry about business costs and profits, or may be in a situation where they’re desperate to sell
- You’ll have to make appointments with the current owners to see each car you’re interested in
- Owners may have trouble negotiating a fair offer because they’re emotionally attached to the car—especially if they bought it fairly recently or owe more than it’s worth
- They may be selling it themselves because the car has problems they’re afraid a dealer will find (and they’re hoping the typical person won’t notice before buying)
- You usually have to pay the full amount upfront—either in cash or cashier’s check from your financing company
- There’s a higher risk of buying a car that’s stolen or has a lien against it–in which case, you’re out of luck, because the police can just confiscate the car and return it to the original owner or the lien holder can force you to pay the amount owed to prevent repossession
- Scammers love using classified ad sites because they know there won’t be a contract and they can simply disappear after the sale
Used Car Dealers
The other alternative is to buy from one of the many used car dealerships in Raleigh, NC.
- You can drop by a lot without an appointment and see a variety of used cars for sale
- Many offer their own warranty or an extended warranty for added protection—and by law, all used car dealers must post a Buyer’s Guide on each vehicle showing whether they’re selling it “as is” or with a warranty, and what percentage of repair costs a dealer will pay under that warranty
- Some used car dealers will also guarantee the car being sold has a “clear title” (so you don’t have to worry about it being stolen or having a lien against it)
- You’ll have a contract that defines your rights and you know exactly where to find the seller if you do have any problems
- If a used car dealer in North Carolina does NOT disclose in writing whether the car was salvaged, involved in a bad accident or damaged in a flood before you buy, you can contact the NC Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office for help (they won’t get involved if you bought from an individual)
- Less money is needed upfront, since you can trade-in your current vehicle or usually arrange financing with them–even for buyers with bad credit
- Potentially getting a pushy salesperson—although many have learned it’s far better to go the no-pressure route, especially if they want referrals and future business
- Prices tend to be a little higher at a used car dealer (though you’ll typically pay less at an independent used car dealer than you will at a dealer that sells both new and used cars)
In short, the car may cost a little more, but many customers feel the convenience and peace-of-mind from working with a reputable used car dealer is a worthwhile trade-off.