Buying a car from a private seller can be a good way to save money. A person-to-person transaction means dealing with more paperwork and may make it a little more difficult to get financing, but it could still be a great way to buy a used car.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Car From a Private Seller

You’ll want to consider all the pros and cons of buying a used car from a private party before you proceed. In some cases, you might be better off looking for a preowned car at a dealership, particularly if you want a warranty. However, working with a private party has its benefits as well.


  • Potential to save money: You might be able to get a better price from a private party. Sellers might not know their car’s true value, or may be in a hurry to sell their car. They also don’t have to charge more to cover overhead costs that come with running a dealership.
  • Room to negotiate: If you want to negotiate (and you likely should), there may be more flexibility on the price when you’re dealing with a private seller. After all, a private seller won’t have a boss leaning on them to make a profitable sale. You also likely won’t be faced off against someone who has frequent experience negotiating car sales.
  • Less pressure: Another benefit of avoiding salespeople—you don’t have to worry about someone trying to up-sell you additional products or services.


  • Fewer guarantees: Dealerships may be bound by federal and state laws that offer some protections and guarantees to buyers. However, private party sales are “as-is,” meaning you might not have any recourse if the car doesn’t perform as promised.
  • Extra paperwork: A dealership may take on the responsibility of registering the vehicle in your name and transferring the title, whereas you’ll have to handle that yourself in a private transaction.

Secure Your Financing

If you can afford to buy a used car with cash, that may be the best way to save money and simplify the process. However, some lenders offer private party auto loans if you need financing.

Find Your Car

From asking friends and family to searching online, there are many ways to connect with private party sellers. is a popular marketplace site for private party car sales. You can also check and, though these are not car sales specific sites.

These sites provide an estimated value of used vehicles based on factors including make, model and condition. They can help you decide if you’d be getting a good deal from the private seller—or if there’s room to negotiate.

Finalize the Deal

Once you’re certain you want to buy the car, you can negotiate the final price and make the purchase.

Change the Ownership of a Used Car

The details for how you legally change ownership documents for the car depend on which state you’re in, whether you’re financing the purchase and if the seller still owes money on the vehicle.

You can transfer car ownership by following the these steps. These steps will guide on how to go through the car ownership changing process on the NTSA Platform.

Get Insured

You also can’t legally drive a car until you have insurance or some other proof of financial responsibility. You can add the new car to your current policy if you have one or buy car insurance for your new car. Either way, you might use this opportunity as an opportunity to get quotes from several insurers to see who offers you the best deal. If you’re financing the purchase, you should check with the lender to see what type of insurance you need to buy

Watch Out for Private Seller Scams

You may be excited to buy a new car while avoiding a dealership, but you also want to watch out for scams. Scams can take different forms, but some common ones to watch out for include:

  • Title washing: Even if it can run right now, you may want to avoid a car that has had significant damage that resulted in a salvage title. Sellers may try to “wash” the title by registering it in a new state. A VIN report can help reveal the car’s true history.
  • Curbstoning: Curbstoning refers to when a dealership pretends to be a private party selling a car. The seller may be offloading vehicles that have liens, bad titles or aren’t safe to drive.
  • Fake escrow accounts: A seller might not let you see the vehicle and tell you there’s a lot of demand or they’re in a rush to sell. They’ll then ask you to send the money to a third-party escrow account to “place a hold” on the car or purchase it for delivery. In reality, however, they control the account and simply take your money once the transfer is complete.
  • Fake guarantees: Sellers may also try to push a deal forward by telling you that there’s a guarantee from whichever payment platform you use, which might not actually be the case. Some platforms do offer a level of protection, so make sure you understand your rights as a consumer before you agree to anything.

In general, it’s best to avoid:

  • Sellers who say they’re in a rush to sell a car for less than it’s worth because of a health issue, move, job deployment or other “emergency.” Scam artists tend to ramp up the time pressure so you have less of a chance to think through the decision.
  • Sellers who request you pay them with gift cards, reloadable prepaid cards or wire transfers.
  • Sellers who refuse to meet you in person or let you have an independent mechanic or technician inspect the vehicle.

While you can save money by buying a used car from a private seller rather than a dealership, set realistic expectations and don’t let a seller pressure you into sending money. As with many major purchases, if a deal seems too good to be true, it’s often best to move on.

By Catherine Mungai

An Outgoing girl based in Nairobi, Kenya who loves life, writing and reading.

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