- Use the Edmunds and "Kelley Blue Book" websites to determine a fair private-sale value for the car you want to buy. Check consumer reviews on both websites to identify any common problems. Call your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine what documents are necessary to complete the purchase of the vehicle and be sure the seller can supply the documents you need.
- Arrange for a mechanic to inspect the vehicle you intend to purchase. Arrange a time with the seller to bring the vehicle to a shop where it can be properly inspected prior to your purchasing. A mechanic can identify any mechanical issues or let you know how well the vehicle has been maintained.
- Take your time searching for a vehicle that's within your budget and fits your needs. Once you find the vehicle, move quickly to secure your purchase. If you intend to finance the vehicle, apply for a pre-approval from your bank before you begin to shop. This process can take up to a week. Your state's DMV may also have time restraints--some state's require you title the vehicle within 30 days. Be sure you are clear on your state's rules.