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Tips for buying used car from a friend

hi all, i am buying my friend’s car and i wanted to take it to a mechanic to have a look at it. not much seems to be “wrong,” i just wanted a report on it’s health from a professional. is there anything in particular i should look out for, or ask the mechanic to check?

My tip is don’t do it - its the whole friend thing. Those things just don’t often work out that well.

But…if you have a mechanic that you trust s/he will know what to look at and give you a report on basic problem areas if any. Hopefully your friend keeps receipts from auto service and has all the records to give you. Try to go to the mechanic with as much documentation of the car’s service history as you can. Mention that you’d like to know not only about any needed or pending repairs but also any overdue or near due maintenance. (E.g. if the car has a timing belt due for a change then you’re looking at anywhere from $600-$1000 in the near future.)

We usually advise against buying a car from a friend, unless you get it for very little and the seller tells you everything that has been done on the car and everything that might go wrong with it. You don’t want to sour a friendship because of a purchase that turned out bad.

If your friend is selling it because it’s close to worn out, don’t buy it at any price. If he is selling it because it’s 3-4 years old and he needs a new car for his work, there might be a good reason to buy it, if the price is right.

In all cases, since your friend likely is not a mechanic, have a professional mechanic go over it and deduct any needed repairs from the selling price.

I have given away several old cars to relatives, and sold one at half price, in very good condition.

Good luck!

What’s more important – buying the car or keeping the friend?


Back in 1955, my Dad bought a 1954 Buick from a friend who was going overseas for two years. We hadn’t had the car three days and it died–the fuel pump failed. My brother and I were told not to say anything to these friends because he didn’t want them to feel bad. I was a freshman in high school when dad bought the Buick. I bought it from him my second year of graduate school. It turned out to be a great car. The Buick had 160,000 miles when I sold it and it was on the street three years later. The head and pan were never off the engine.
Dad knew the people well enough that he didn’t have a mechanic check it out.

Nice to hear a happy story like this one.

Will this be a cash purchase that you can easily afford? And if the car stalls in the middle of the road the day after you buy it can you afford a $200 wrecker bill and a $600 repair? Is the price less than the bank loan value of the car? If so you might feel somewhat safe in the purchase. If the purchase requires financing and you don’t have a couple of thousand dollars available for emergencies it really wouldn’t be advisable to buy the car from anyone.