Risks of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller | Auto Simple (2023)

Risks of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller | Auto Simple (1)

We’ve shared our tips for buying a used car, but we never discussed all of the risks involved with buying a used car from a private seller.

While it’s possible to get a great deal from a private seller, unfortunately it’s a rare event. As with many high-reward circumstances, it also involves a lot of risk.

Private Seller vs. Dealership

The first major decision you need to make when selecting and purchasing a new used vehicle is whether you will be buying from a private seller or a dealership. A private seller is an individuallooking to sell their vehicle to another individual for the maximum value they could get. A dealership buys and sells hundreds or thousands of cars every year and mustfollow all state and federalrules and regulations.

While doing business with a dealer such as Auto Simpleis the safest and easiest way to purchase a used car, buying from a private seller can save you money (if you’re lucky). But be aware of the potential risks before you invest the time and energy into buying from a private seller.

Private Seller Risks

Although there are some good advantages, such as potentially better deals, there are many reasons why you might want to avoid private sellers entirely.

(Video) How to Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller | My Advice when Buying a Used Car

  • Lack of Consumer ProtectionThe state and federal laws and regulations that apply to dealerships aren’t applicable when buying from a private seller. When you buy a car from a private seller, you are buying it “as is,” which means that any problems with the car are nowyour problems. Private sellers aren’t covered by the FTC’s Used Car Rule, which means they don’t have to post a Buyers Guidethe way dealers do. You also won’t get any warranties on the vehicle, unless the manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect and you successfully transfer ownership. This is something to consider, since you will have to contact the appropriate division of the manufacturing company to update their records.
  • More FootworkAs the old proverbgoes, “Time is money.” Consider all of the time you will spend on Craigslist and other websites, researching the cars, contacting the owners, ordering vehicle reports, discussing meeting times, finding transportation, scheduling inspections, and transferring all of the paperwork. Unless you get really lucky, you will find this process extremely frustrating and time-consuming.
  • More PaperworkBoth you and the seller are responsible for all the paperwork. This means transferring the title and/or bill of sale, registration, and any related fees and taxes. Often, you will need to make the trip to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). And we all know how fun that can be.
  • Vehicle History Reports and InspectionsMany times, a private seller will not have a vehicle history report to show you and might refuse to pay for one. This means you will have to spend the money to get a vehicle history report on CARFAXor a similar website by looking up the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Even if they have a CARFAX or similar report, it’s highly recommended that you conduct your own vehicle inspection, which will set you back around $100.
  • WorseNegotiationsSometimes negotiations are easier, sometimes they’re harder. It really depends on who you are working with. Be aware ofdealers who pose as private sellers and use suspect tactics to close the deal. This happens a lot on Craigslist. Never trust a dealer disguising themselves as a private seller. They are obviously trying to deceive you, regardless of if they have good or bad intentions. If you have any strange suspicions, it’s best to walk away before you get in too deep.

Finally, beware of cars that are being sold for an extremely low price. As the saying goes, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.” Sometimes the car being offered is a lemon or a fraud. There may be things that are wrong with the car and the owner just wants to get rid of it.

How to Buy a Used Car from a Private Seller

If you do decide to buy from a private seller, keep in mind all of the extra work involved. Since private sellers are not subject to the same strict laws and regulations that dealerships are, the risk of fraudulent practices significantly rises.

Here are some things you should do to ensure you’re dealing with a trustworthy seller:

  • Right off the bat, ask them if they are the owner. You want to get this out of the way and the best way to do so is by asking. Ask a little bit about their time with the car, how long they’ve owned the vehicle, where they purchased it from, etc. This is where you should be able to catch any tell-tale signs, such as “selling for a friend” or “just bought it recently.”
  • Ask the owner about vehicle history. Don’t be afraid to call and ask about the car. If they are car flipping, they probably won’t have maintenance records. If they say they have no records, ask them where they get their maintenance and repairs done and then call the business and ask for them. Here, you will also be able to tellif the name of the person you are speaking with matches the name on the records. If they don’t know details about the car off the top of their head, you may be dealing with a disguised trader.
  • Look up the phone number ofthe person you are speaking with. If the number comes back as a pay-as-you-go phone or in relation to other vehicle sales, walk away.
  • Double-check the address. Be wary of anyone wishing to meet in a place other than their home. You want to make sure that the seller’s address matches the address on the car title and registration. If they have a reason for not meeting at home, consider driving by to make sure it is a real address.
  • Test-drive the car on the street and highway. You will want to heighten you senses while test-driving the car. Pay close attention to any sounds, sights, smells, or feelings you have while driving, turning, and braking on both street and highway. Test all of the electrical controls: windows, radio, locking system, etc. Make sure all of the lights work and that the vehicle drives and brakes straight. This should only take about ten or fifteen minutes.
  • Get a car inspection.It is always a good idea to have the car inspected when buying from a private seller. It will cost around $100 for an inspection from an ASE-certified mechanic, butwill save you from buying a potential lemon.
  • If you have suspicions, walk away. You are under no obligation to buy the car. Ask a lot of questions. Use your gut instincts and listen when they are telling you that something is fishy. If you’ve been lied to once,you’ll probably get lied to again. If you don’t build trust, both with dealers and personal sellers, you may be in for a rude surprise.

If you are buying from a private seller, make sure the title and registration has been successfully transferred before handing over themoney. It’s also a good idea to check if there are any past-due registration fees.

Phew, that’s a lot isn’t it? If you don’t have the time, energy, or personality for the private car buying process, we don’t blame you. Buying and sellingat a dealership is A LOT easier and more secure.

Shop our online inventory and schedule a test drive on our private track. After all questions are answered and the paperwork is signed, you will receive the keys and copies of all the documents. It’s that easy.

(Video) Problem with a Used Car You Bought From a Private Seller

In fact, you can leave the Auto Simple lot with a new pre-owned vehicle for as low as $500 down!

Auto Simplewants you to find a car you love at a price you can afford. We carry a large selection of hand-picked, Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, all of which come with a 6 month/6,000-mile powertrain warranty. We also own a private track for test driving!

Withlocationsin Cleveland, Chattanooga, Dayton, and a new store in Dalton, GA, we make it easy to walk away with your dream car.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of ourOnline Specialistsor give us a call:

Chattanooga, TN –(423) 551-3600

(Video) How to Buy a Used Car or Truck From a Private Seller! Car Buying Tips From Sue!

Cleveland, TN –(423) 476-4600

Dayton, TN –(423) 775-4600

Dalton,GA– (706) 217-CARS (2277)

Follow us on social media for more useful information on buying, selling, and maintaining cars:Facebook,Twitter,Youtube, andGoogle+.

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Is it risky buying car from private seller? ›

Buying a car from a private seller should not be something to cause you undue worry; in fact, it should save you money compared to buying from a dealer which has bills to pay and profits to secure.

What are your rights when buying a second hand car privately? ›

The Act states the car must be “of a satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. (For a used car, “satisfactory quality” takes into account the car's age and mileage.) You have a right to reject something faulty and you're entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase in most cases.

Why do people sell cars privately? ›

The primary reason you may be wanting to sell your car privately is to get the best price for your car. However, selling privately doesn't always get you the most money and it's always worth getting a free online valuation beforehand.

Are private car sales sold as seen? ›

Remember, regardless of car age and price, sold as seen and trade sale do not legally apply to private buyers. When you purchase a car from a company, you both enter a legal, binding contract that excludes comments on reduced liabilities.

How do I protect myself from buying a car from a private seller? ›

How to Protect Yourself When Buying a Used Car in 7 Easy Steps
  1. Don't Skip the Test Drive. ...
  2. Check the Car's Title. ...
  3. Expect to Get a Free Vehicle History Report. ...
  4. But Don't Rely Solely on That Report. ...
  5. Check for Recalls. ...
  6. Contact the Previous Owner. ...
  7. Get a Mechanic's Inspection.
26 Jul 2021

Can you return a car after buying it from a private seller? ›

There has to be a proven defect. If you can prove that the vehicle you were sold was not fit for the purpose when you bought it, you have a leg to stand on – but you as the buyer has to provide the evidence. This puts you in a position to demand a repair, replacement, or refund.

What's decent mileage on a used car? ›

As a general rule, you should assume that the average car owner puts 12,000 miles on a car each year. To determine whether a car has reasonable mileage, you can simply multiply 12,000 by its age. That means good mileage for a car that's 5 years old is 60,000.

Does the Consumer Rights Act apply to second hand cars? ›

The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1 October 2015 and covers the purchase of goods, digital content and services including new and used cars from official dealers (it doesn't apply to private sales) as well as servicing, repairs and maintenance work. Products must be: Of satisfactory quality.

Does Consumer Rights Act apply to private sales? ›

Traders and private sellers

If you bought from a trader, you're covered under the Consumer Rights Act and the standard timeframes. If buying from a private seller, you have fewer rights. This means that as long as the car was accurately described, you won't be able to claim a refund.

Can you get a refund from a private seller? ›

After a vehicle is sold from one private party to another, the buyer can ask for their money back, but the seller generally does not have to agree to cancel the sale, absent a warranty or fraud.

What can you do if someone sells you a dodgy car? ›

If you believe the seller has sold you a faulty car, you should contact the seller immediately. You have consumer rights for up to six years, which protects you against a faulty car. However, the law does not offer you a blanket protection.

Does Consumer Rights Act apply to private sales? ›

Traders and private sellers

If you bought from a trader, you're covered under the Consumer Rights Act and the standard timeframes. If buying from a private seller, you have fewer rights. This means that as long as the car was accurately described, you won't be able to claim a refund.

Is it a criminal Offence to sell an unroadworthy car? ›

Selling an unroadworthy car is a criminal offence unless the buyer is fully aware of this fact. If you have an unroadworthy vehicle that you want to dispose of, you may wish to consider selling it for scrap instead.


1. How To Buy A Car From A Private Seller
(Helpful DIY)
2. 12 Things To Check Before Buying A Used Car
3. 6 Steps to Limit Risk When Selling Your Car Privately
4. Never Buy a Used Car from the Dealership
(Scotty Kilmer)
5. Buying a Used Car: What Does "As-Is" Mean? (Former Car Dealer Explains)
(Your Advocate Alliance (YAA))
6. Buying A Private Car: How To Buy A Car From A Private Seller
(Buying A Private Car)
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