Buying a Car from a Private Seller by Autozen

In the ever-evolving landscape of car buying, consumers are constantly seeking the best deals and more personalized options. One avenue gaining popularity is purchasing vehicles directly from private sellers. This not only offers potential cost savings, but also provides a unique and often more flexible buying experience. Let Autozen show you how to successfully navigate the process!

Buying a Car from a Private Seller: Pros and Cons

Open any online marketplace, and you will find hundreds of used cars available for sale by private sellers. Not to mention the cars you see parked in front yards with a “for sale” sign on the windshield, or the tried-and-true method of putting up a flyer on a grocery store bulletin board. If you’re in the market for a used car, what are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a car from a private seller?

Advantages of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

Probably the number one reason for entering into a transaction with a private seller is money, as you may well be able to get a better deal that way instead of purchasing your used car from a dealership. When someone sells their car to a dealer, the dealer then has to mark up the price so that they make a profit off the transaction. Without a middleman, the seller can get a higher price from a private buyer, while the buyer still pays less than they would when buying from a dealership.

As well, working with a private seller could result in an even lower price once negotiations are completed. After all, dealers are professionals at negotiation, and are skilled at getting the price they want, while a private seller may be more likely to come down in price to get their car off their hands.

There’s also more of a personal touch when buying privately. You will meet the current owner and get a better feel for how the car has been taken care of over its lifetime. 

Disadvantages of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

However, there are definitely some downsides to buying a car privately, rather than going to a dealership. In most provinces, a private seller is usually not obligated to get a safety certificate before selling their car. That puts the onus on you to pay for an inspection before buying. Otherwise, you could discover serious issues after the deal is done and you’re stuck with expensive repairs. Dealerships will offer a warranty when you’re buying a used car. While it may be for a limited length of time, it should be long enough for you to discover any problems after your purchase.

When buying privately, you also have to do your own work to make sure that there are no liens on the vehicle, which could result in your car being repossessed for a loan you were unaware of. That’s not going to be an issue when buying from a dealer.

Meeting up with a private seller at their home might be risky. On the other hand, a dealership is a public space where you will be safer.

Finally, if you need financing for your purchase, that will be much more complicated when working with a private seller, as you will have to take care of it yourself. However, a dealer will be able to arrange the financing for you.

Steps to Buying a Car from a Private Seller

So, you’ve decided that buying a car from a private seller is your preferred option. What’s the best way to make this a successful experience that ends with you driving off in a car that meets your needs at a price that you can afford?

Getting Started

Start by checking out the state of the used car market in your area. Browse the listings on sites such as AutoTrader, Kijiji, and Facebook Marketplace. You can narrow your search down to your preferred make and model, and get a sense for how much cars like that are selling for. This can help you determine a realistic budget for your car purchase.

Even if you’re not planning to buy from a dealer, visit used car lots as well. That way, you will get a better idea of what condition you can expect in a used car. 

Contacting Sellers

Once you’ve established what type of car will best suit your needs, and how much you can reasonably expect to pay for it, go back to those online platforms and make a short list of used cars you’d be interested in pursuing further. Message the sellers with any questions you might have. This is a good way to shorten that list even further. Before even meeting them, if your interaction with a seller sets off negative vibes, you don’t need to go any further. 

Meeting with Private Sellers

Once you have some cars you’d like to check out, set up a meeting with the seller. To be safe, it’s a good idea to make that for a public location such as a mall parking lot. Going to a stranger’s house isn’t usually recommended.

When you meet, go over the entire car, and take it for a test drive. Ask if the seller has a recent safety certificate and Carfax report, or any warranties and maintenance documentation. Don’t put in an offer yet! You still have more work to do.

Further Research

When checking out the car, you can record the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) so that you can obtain your own Carfax report if the seller hasn’t provided one. That will give you a detailed history of the car, and you should definitely pay the extra to get a lien search included. That way, you will know whether or not the seller has a loan secured on the car, which will have to be resolved if you buy it.

It's also a good idea to pay for a trusted mechanic to check it out for you before you put in an offer. If the seller isn’t willing to let you do that, be prepared to walk away. Spending a little on this step can save you thousands if there’s an issue with the car that went unnoticed in your inspection. 


So, all has gone well up to this point, and you want to buy the car. It’s time to negotiate!

Before making an offer to the seller, determine how high you’re willing to go. Make a first offer that is below that so that you have room to maneuver. Be courteous but firm, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the seller refuses to compromise. There are other cars out there. 

Finalizing the Sale

Once you and the seller have agreed on a price, it’s time to take care of the paperwork

If there is a lien on the car, the seller must either provide proof that the loan has been paid in full, or you can go with the seller to the lender and pay it yourself, and then hand the balance to the seller. Never simply trust the seller to settle it later.

Both you and the seller should have a signed copy of the bill of sale, and the seller must sign over the ownership to you. It’s then your responsibility to complete your vehicle registration, when you will be required to pay sales tax on the transaction.

Finally, make sure that you’ve arranged your insurance coverage before you drive away! Buying a used car from a private seller can be a great way to save some money, as long as you approach it properly. Let this Autozen guide help you make the right moves in your car-buying adventure!