1. Be sure when you arrive at the residence of the seller that you take good notice of the appearance of the dwelling. Someone who takes meticulous care of a house and yard is more likely to take meticulous care of a car, changing the oil when necessary and maintaining the vehicle on time.

2. Begin any encounter by being friendly. Creating a relationship with a prospective seller can help you down the line when it comes to negotiating a price.

3. Inspect the vehicle carefully. You are not looking for scratches in the paint (there will be a few) or even small fender dings (they will be there also). Instead, look for serious wear and tear, like worn down parts, broken parts, or missing parts all together. Signs of serious wear and tear are more important than any small scratch.

4. Be wary of any vehicle that has after-market work done. That low riding '82 Vanogan may look great, but will the work affect the reliability in the long run?

5. Ask the owner to see the maintenance records of the vehicle. If he/she cannot or will not produce this paperwork, then fuggedaboudit. This is a warning sign that the vehicle may have trouble that the owner is trying to hide from you.

6. Have the vehicle inspected by a private mechanic. This should cost $40 - $60, but it is a small price to pay to make sure that you are getting your money's worth.

7. Negotiate carefully. Every private seller should expect to get less than they ask. Do not accept the first offer unless it is too good to be true (and in that case you want to be very careful). In the same respect, do not insult the seller either. Offer a fair price below what they are asking and work from there. If your inspection of the vehicle has revealed some minor problems, use them as bargaining chips to lower the price even further.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW buy a used car?