About 87 percent of Americans dislike something about shopping for cars at dealerships, and more than half would rather buy or sell a car from home. If you’re considering buying a car privately — perhaps you’re looking for a particular vehicle or you simply find a seller with the right car at the right time — follow these do’s and don’ts to make a private purchase a happy transaction for both sides.
When you’re looking
Do your research. Know what type of vehicle you’re looking for and what buyers typically pay for a certain model in a given condition. (Sites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are well-respected resources.) There may be less room to haggle with a private seller — remember, he or she has the same information as you do — but a little knowledge can help you make an offer that’s fair.
Don’t overlook red flags. Never wire money in advance, for example. Ask to see the title, which is a way for the seller to prove ownership. And if the car is priced suspiciously low, walk away.
When you’re ready to buy
Do investigate the vehicle’s history. While a car dealership may often provide information on a previous owner or there may be a partial warranty that comes with a purchase, private transactions are typically “as is” — meaning any problems may be your responsibility. Look up a vehicle history report from a service such as Carfax (you’ll need the VIN number) to uncover issues such as past accidents or flood damage that sellers may not be forthcoming about.
Don’t skip the prepurchase inspection. Take the vehicle to your mechanic. For about $100, you may find out about a potential problem or future repair that may cost you thousands of dollars.
When you’re completing the transaction
Do get your paperwork in order. Check with your state’s motor vehicle department for specific regulations. You may need to obtain an emissions test or an odometer disclosure statement form from the seller, or even have the title notarized, for example. Also, check that the registration is up to date; if not, you may incur late fees.
Don’t show up to the sale with cash. Work with an escrow service to facilitate the payment or conduct the transaction at your financial institution.
State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates) is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites hyperlinked from this page. State Farm has no discretion to alter, update, or control the content on the hyperlinked, third party site. Access to third party sites is at the user's own risk, is being provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any of the products which may be referenced on such third party sites.