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How to Buy a Car Long Distance!
10 easy steps to come out on top!

Published 7/18/2000

For more than ten years now Buyer Services International have been helping people buy cars long distance. To tell you that there was no risk involved would be simply untrue, there is. However, if you are smart and do your homework, take your time and follow these ten steps, you will be able to greatly reduce the chances of being burned.


1) Thoroughly research the car you are about to buy. I know it sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many people see a car, fall in love with it, and start looking for one to buy without knowing the first thing about it! Get back issues of magazines with articles on the car, check the book stores and library for reference material, talk to owners at car shows call the car clubs. Your objective is to find the cars 'weak spots'. Where it rusts, any inherent engine problems, that type of thing.You'll find useful resources on line to like here:
REF: Magazines / Clubs

2) Begin your search, and dig deep, leave no stone unturned. Check classified listings, dealer's inventories, and auctions, both online and traditional. You never know where that perfect car will turn up. Besides, the more you search, the more people you talk to, the better you'll get to know the perfect car when you find it.
REF: Classifieds / Dealers / Auctions / Online Auctions

3) Once you've found a potential example, Make a call and conduct a 'preliminary interview 'of the seller. Ask the basic questions, such as:
How long have they had the car? What work have they had done on it during that time?
Why are they selling it? that sort of thing. The objective is to get a 'gut feel' for the person you are talking to. Are they reluctant to answer your questions? Do they give evasive or generic answers? or do they seem to be forthright and willing? Do they volunteer to tell what's wrong with their car, or only about the good things? Do they strike you as honest? I can usually tell within about three questions if I want to pursue the car further. You get a knack for it, the bottom line is to go with your 'gut feeling', if it doesn't feel quite right to you, it probably isn't. I use a system of ' Red Flags', (or answers I don't like the sound of) and the old 'three strikes you're out' rule.

4) Presuming the preliminary interview went well, ask the seller if he has some good photos you can see. Try to make this as easy for them as you can, it can be a real pain having to keep sending photos out to possible customers, so help them to get them to you as easily as possible. I will often tell them they can attach them to an e-mail, if they have a scanner and know how to use it, or I will even offer to pay for the developing if they go buy a disposable camera. I tell them to use it up, throw it in an envelope and send it to me. It helps get some people motivated to do it. When they take the pictures, be sure and tell them to get plenty of photos of the cars particular 'weak spots'. (areas where they usually rust. or problems occur etc.)

5) While the photos are in the mail, ask if there are any relevant documents they can fax you copies of. Titles, registration certificate, even receipts from major repairs that you can get a look at in the meantime to corroborate what they've told you so far about the car.

6) Once the photos arrive, if they look good, get back on the phone and discuss what you see with the seller. You will now be faced with two choices, (a) to get on a plane and fly to see the car yourself or (b) hire an independent third party to complete an inspection of the car. If you choose to have the car inspected, don't skimp here. Saving a couple of hundred dollars on an inspection service could end up costing you thousands down the road. Get a good thorough condition report created. REF: Inspection Services

7) Once you have the report back in your hands and you've had a chance to read it through several times, call the seller again and re-interview him. Confront him with any discrepancies found by the inspector that were contrary to what he had told you in the previous conversations. Again, what you want to do here, is try to get a sense of the sellers honesty. If you can establish that he's being honest and forthright, then one can surmise he's probably being truthful about the condition of the car. This is also the time to ask him if there are any other parts, tools, or manuals, etc that he will give up with the car. If you are going to need the car delivered, now would be the time to ask him if he'd be willing to deliver it for you, or take it to the nearest port.(You'll notice that we haven't discussed money yet). When your done, thank him for his time, tell him you'll give it some thought and get back to him in a day or two. Don't be intimidated if he says someone else is coming to see the car. Just say that's ok, and you'll be in touch.

8) Let the seller stew at least 48 hours. You want to leave him just long enough so he thinks you are not going to call back. (So if you told him you'd call him back in two days, leave it three days before you do). If he is not home when you call - leave a message on his machine asking him to get back to you. DON'T keep calling trying to catch him in. You want to seem disinterested. When you finally get hold of him, tell him you've narrowed down your search to his car and one other. The other has 'X' and his has 'Y' (make those things what ever you like) so it's a 'toss up'. Remind him that he has those spares he mentioned, and because he offered to deliver it, so you want to make him an offer of $$$$$. If he balks, or counter offers, don't get dragged into it. Tell him to think about your offer and you'll call him back in a couple of days. Oh and leave him your number just in case he wants to get hold of you in the meantime for some reason.

One note here: To arrive at a figure to offer him. Take everything 'bad' he has told you about the car as a 'worse case scenario'. That is to say, if he told you, "the car jumps out of gear, but it just needs adjusting", take that as, "the car needs a new gear box". If he says, "the gauges are faulty", take that as "the car needs a new wiring harness". You get the idea. This way, if the problem does turn out to be a faulty gauge, you come out on top. If on the other hand it does need a new wiring harness, well then you've covered yourself with the low you paid for the car to be able to buy one. It's a win/win situation for you.

9) Nine times out of ten, when you nonchalantly call back in a couple of days, he realizes his phone hasn't exactly been 'ringing off the wall', and your offer will probably look really good! Even if you have to raise your offer $500 to appease him, providing you've done your homework you should still be getting a great deal.

10) Once you've settled on a price, arrange to send a deposit of not more than $1000, and tell him that in exchange you'd like him to send you the Title to the car. Worse case for him if you don't follow through, is he has to get a duplicate title, but he has your $1000 in the bank to help ease his pain! Tell him you will then make arrangements to get the car collected by a trucking company, and when they come to pick the car up, they will be bring a 'certified' check for the balance of the price. Don't forget to get everything he promised you, receipts, manuals, parts and tools etc.
Note: In order to find a trucking company to do this you might have to shop around a bit. You want to look for one that own and operate their own trucks. A trucking company either delivers your car to a shipping company, to the docks or directly to your door if you live in the USA or Canada. REF: Trucking Companies / Shipping Companies

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