How to buy a car from a private seller


The United States is seeing an increase in used car sales. In 2018, Americans bought 39.4 millions used cars, compared to 17.3million new cars that same year. McKinsey predicts used car sales will grow faster than new cars in the next five year.

A driver can either buy a pre-owned certified car from a dealer or purchase a used car from a private seller when they are looking for a car. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. Before buying a used car, it is crucial that shoppers understand which one is best for them.

The pros and cons of buying your car from a private seller

Although there are obvious advantages to buying a car privately, there are some downsides.

A private seller can offer the best deal for a used car. A private seller will usually sell a vehicle for less than a dealer, and there is no additional cost. Private sellers are more open to negotiation than dealerships, and may be willing to lower the price.

The cons of buying from a private seller

A private seller can have some serious drawbacks when buying a car. First, the buyer has no way to know if the seller is trustworthy. Some private sellers are able to scam buyers by lying about vehicle history and service records. Even if the seller claims the car is in excellent condition, the buyer could end up having to pay for unexpected repairs.

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A downside to private sales is the lack of financing options. Many certified pre-owned car dealers offer financing options to drivers who wish to finance the car over time. Private seller purchases require the buyer to be pre-approved for either a personal loan or another financing option prior to the car being sold.

What are the requirements to purchase a car from an individual seller?

A driver must have several documents in order to purchase a used vehicle from a private seller.

  • Title A title is a document that identifies who the vehicle’s owner. The seller must transfer the title to the buyer if the vehicle is being sold privately. Pay attention to any titles with words such as “salvage” and “rebuilt” which indicate that the vehicle was damaged or has had extensive repairs.
  • Bill for sale: This is the receipt that documents the transaction. It should contain the vehicle’s make and model, year, VIN number, sale price, and the contact information for the buyer and seller.
  • Results of smog tests: Some states require that vehicle owners have a smog check every year in order to verify the car’s emission levels. These drivers should ask the seller for the most current smog test results.
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Steps to buy a car from an individual seller

It is more complicated to buy a vehicle from a private seller than it is to purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle from a dealer. These are the steps you need to follow when buying a used vehicle from a private seller.

Take a look around

First, you need to determine a budget and identify the makes and models that interest you. Next, start looking for vehicles in your local area. If you’re flexible about the type of vehicle, you can shop for vehicles solely based on their price. Drivers should seek out vehicles with high safety ratings and reliability based on reviews. To see specific vehicle ratings, including used value, search Kelley Blue Book.

Get in touch with the seller

Let the seller know that you are interested in purchasing their vehicle. Ask the current owner about the vehicle. They will need to know how long the vehicle has been owned, how often the vehicle is serviced, and whether there are any liens on it. You can also request the VIN number of the vehicle and access the car’s history online.

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You can see the car in person

After you have found a good contender, schedule a time to visit the vehicle in person. Begin by looking at the outside of the vehicle for any dents, scratches, or rust. Next, inspect the interior to ensure that all the components such as the seats, doors, windows and headlights are in good working order. You can take the car on a test drive to check for any problems with the engine, transmission, or brakes.

Close the deal

You are ready to sell the vehicle if it meets all your requirements. Talk to the seller about negotiating for a lower price. After settling on a price, the seller will accept payment and you will receive the title. To find out more information about the registration process, including what paperwork you will need and how to get new plates, contact your state’s DMV.

Beware of the scams when purchasing a car from a private seller

Beware of frauds when buying a car from a private seller. These are the top scams to be aware of:

  • Title Washing: Title Washing occurs when a vehicle is salvaged and the seller alters the document in order to delete the mention of the salvage. A VIN check can be used to check the vehicle’s salvage history.
  • Guaranteed payment In exchange for a guarantee on a used vehicle, sellers may ask buyers to pay them via Venmo or PayPal. These payment platforms do not participate in the sale of used cars and they cannot guarantee private seller transactions unless specified.
  • Curbstoning is when a professional dealership pretends to be a private seller of cars and makes major changes to a vehicle in order to conceal serious problems like flood damage. The best way to find curbstoners is to not have any service records.
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Questions frequently asked

Which is the best auto insurance company?

The best car insurer is determined by factors such as the driver’s location and the type of coverage they desire, the amount of coverage they need, their credit score, age, and many other factors. State Farm, Amica USAA, Allstate and Geico are some of the most trusted car insurance companies.

Are you required to have car insurance in order to purchase a used vehicle?

A used car transaction does not require you to have car insurance. To legally drive the vehicle, however, from the place of sale to your home and then to the DMV, you will need to have car insurance. You might be able to add the vehicle to your existing car insurance policy if you already have it.

Where can I buy used vehicles from private sellers

You can find used vehicles for sale by private sellers on many platforms. Craiglist, and Facebook Marketplace are the most popular platforms for finding used vehicles being sold by private sellers.