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What are the pros and cons of buying a car from a private seller?

woman buying car

With used car prices as high as they are, many people are choosing to buy cars from a private seller rather than a dealer. Forbes states that the average used car price at the dealership today is $25,000, which is up $5,000 from last year.

Used cars are generally no longer covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, parts can be covered with a vehicle service contract (also known as an extended car warranty.)

If you’re in the market for a car, buying a used car from a private seller can be a cheaper option. Here are the pros and cons:

What are the pros of buying a car from a private seller?

Most private sellers will put “for sale” signs on their cars or post their cars online via sites like Craigslist, Ebay and Autotrader. Here are the advantages of buying through a private seller.

Lower priced used car

Without the dealership fees and without marked up prices on extras, like a dealership extended car warranty service plan, you’ll be saving thousands on the price of the car.

No pushy salespeople

Dealerships are run by professional salespeople. With a private seller, you’re likely to be less pressured to buy.

Quicker sale

At the dealership, a sale can take a long time due to paperwork and other administrative processes. When you buy from a private seller, everything can happen very quickly.

What are the cons of buying a car from a private seller?

Though it’s cheaper and simpler to buy a car from a private seller, there are some clear risks involved. Here are the disadvantages of buying through a private seller.

Fewer legal protections 

Private sellers don’t have to follow the same strict state and federal laws that dealerships do. Dealerships have to abide by lemon laws, which protect the buyer from a defective car.

No financing option

Dealerships offer financing options that can be really helpful if you don’t have the cash readily available. Private sellers will want to get cash for the full price of the car.

Sale is final

Once you give your money to a private seller, the sale is usually final. You won’t be able to change your mind a few days later as you might be able to at the dealership.

No protection from repairs

If your used car breaks down in the future, the private seller won’t offer much help. When people sell their cars, they usually sell them as is. It’s up to you to protect yourself from a repair.

What to do if you want to buy a car from a private seller?

Be sure to do your homework and research the car you’re interested in as soon as you can.

  1. Find the market value through Kelley Blue Book.
  2. Once you find a seller, contact them and make sure they’re located near you.
  3. Arrange to see the car and test drive it. 
  4. Be sure to ask for proof of ownership and the VIN number. Check the VIN online for a vehicle history report through a site like Carfax or AutoCheck.
  5. Ask the seller if you can have the car inspected by a mechanic.

If everything looks good, negotiate the price of the car. Most private sellers will be willing to negotiate.

Read our recent blog 8 questions to ask yourself when test driving a used car.

How to protect a used car from repairs

Future car repairs on used cars can be covered with the right kind of vehicle breakdown coverage. Vehicle Repair Protection is a low-cost monthly subscription that can handle expensive unavoidable car repairs when they happen. Your coverage includes premium membership benefits like Car Cash ($5 back every month) and Fair Repair, which negotiates the lowest repair bill possible even if a repair isn’t covered. has created vehicle breakdown coverage that is simple, trustworthy and affordable. Transforming the extended car warranty marketplace through technology and transparency, offers a full suite of worry-free, no haggle car care plans through low-cost, 100% online, monthly subscriptions that drivers can sign up for in less than five minutes. Get an instant quote today!