Buying a car though private sale

August 26, 2021

Purchasing a vehicle can be an expensive affair, especially when liaising with dealerships. Sometimes, to avoid hefty costs associated with dealerships, some consumers opt for private vehicle sales that they believe will be good value for their money. While the idea of getting a vehicle for a lesser value may seem alluring, it can also come with its disadvantages if thorough research is not conducted. If consumers do their homework and have some mechanical knowledge about cars, they are in a better position to buy privately and will be able to determine which car is correctly valued. Private vehicle sales in Fiji is riddled with many issues. The Council has received several complaints pertaining to private vehicle sales. 

Case Study

A consumer purchased a vehicle via private sale however, he noticed that the vehicle had developed several issues soon after purchase. Upon conducting some investigations, the consumer discovered that the vehicle had been involved in an accident and had been written off.

The Council has also received cases whereby individuals have failed to file the transfer of ownership documents to the Land Transport Authority in a timely manner. This later resulted in unnecessary and avoidable hassle to all the parties involved later on.

Considering the drawbacks

While purchasing vehicles through private sales has its own perks, consumers should note that in a private sale, sellers do not have to;

• Be registered as a business;

• Comply with checks and balances indicated in the Self-Regulated Guidelines for the sale of second-hand motor vehicles;

• Comply with the relevant consumer protection that businesses are required to.

Consumer rights when purchasing a vehicle through private sale

Even though individuals selling vehicles privately do not have to be registered as a business, since a transaction is taking place; the buyers become the consumers which automatically guarantees them certain rights; These are;

• Any and all information which may affect the buyer’s decision to purchase a vehicle should be disclosed beforehand. This includes but is not limited to;

1. Correct vehicle specifications such as year of manufacture, model and mileage;

2. Any existing defects in the vehicle;

3. Vehicle’s involvement in an accident or was written-off; and

• Vehicle should match the description provided in the sale advertisement.

• Consumers also have the right to inspect the vehicle themselves or get it inspected by a mechanic.

Consumer Responsibility

Even though consumers are entitled to certain rights in a private car sale, they also have certain responsibilities which they must fulfil in order to ensure that they get value for their money. Before buying privately consumers should:

• Know what you want; you should have an idea of what type of vehicle you are looking for based on your needs;

• View any vehicle in person;

• Be prepared to ask the seller questions. If the vehicle is being sold “as is where is” ask for details of known issues;

• Check the vehicle history with the Land Transport Authority;

• Get a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle to identify any faults;

• Check whether the vehicle identification number or chassis number in the engine bay matches that stated on the licence registration papers;

• Check if the vehicle is licensed (LTA passed), and when the licence expires;

• Proof that the person selling the car is the owner, i.e., they have the vehicle licence papers with their name on it and a driver’s licence to help identify who they are.

During purchase with a private seller

• Consider creating your own sales agreement or contract with the seller; this is formalizing the deal and hold the seller legally accountable;

• Save copies of your sales agreement, and any other documentation related to the sale;

It is imperative that consumers lodge the transfer of ownership documents to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) as soon as it is signed by the seller of the vehicle. This is because even though you have paid for the vehicle, you will only become the legal owner of the vehicle if you file the necessary paperwork with LTA.

Consumer tips

Below are some of useful tips to check before investing on a private sale.

1. Do not Skip the Test-Drive

This is where you first determine if the vehicle is worth your consideration. Consumers should note an unusual squeaks and rattles, or any items that need to be repaired. A car that pulls to one side might be showing signs of previous damage. Paint overspray on the backs of body panels and doorjambs can signal body work from an accident.

2. Check the Car’s Title

This will help consumers avoid surprises that could pop up when they go to register the car. First, make sure the seller has the actual title for the vehicle on hand. Examine the title document for signs that the vehicle has been wrecked, repurchased or suffered flood damage, or had another problem. Verify that the odometer statement on the title agrees with the number in the car and that the vehicle doesn’t have any outstanding liens. If the dealer doesn’t have the title or won’t show it to you, consider a different car or different dealer.

3. Check for Road Worthiness

Even if the car looks super-clean and the seller promises it was driven gently, consumers should get an expert opinion on its roadworthiness. Have the vehicle inspected by a reliable mechanic. The results of this inspection give you ammunition to negotiate a final price.

4. Check for Recalls

Check whether any safety recalls apply to the vehicle you are considering buying. Consumer Reports recommends that shoppers not to buy any vehicle with an open recall. This can be verified with a simple google search.

Consumers who are facing issues with their vehicles purchased through private sales are encouraged to seek the Councils assistance using the toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the consumer council of fiji mobile app.