Buying a Used Car: Private Seller or Dealer?

September 14th, 2016 by
used car dealer and private seller

If you are looking to buy a used car, you may be faced with a question – should I buy at a private party or a dealership? Both avenues have pluses and minuses and the answer really depends on your goals


When it’s time for you to buy your next used car, should you buy one from a private seller or from a dealership?

The one significant advantage of buying a used car from a private seller is that you tend to be able to get a lower price than you would pay at a dealership. Private sellers are just looking to get a decent price for a car they want to get rid of while dealerships are trying to turn a profit on each vehicle they sell, which is why the prices are usually higher at dealerships.

There are quite a few disadvantages when you shop for used cars with private sellers. Unless you personally know the seller, you’re going to be dealing with a bunch of complete strangers. You really won’t know anything about them. You won’t know how trustworthy they are, how they really drove the car, and so on. Of course you should ask for service records if the seller has them available so you can see if it was properly serviced. And if you do buy from a private seller and you’re not satisfied with your purchase, there’s no money-back guarantee, no real means of redress. If there’s something really wrong with the car, all you could do is try to take the seller to court, but who wants to go through all that hassle? One final thing is that you also have to figure out the financing all on your own, which means shopping around at different lenders to get the best terms you can get.

This doesn’t mean shopping for a used car at dealerships is always a walk in the park. After all, everyone knows that while there are great used car dealerships to be found, there are also some that are not good. If the dealership doesn’t have a firm pricing model, you’re going to have to haggle and negotiate the price of a vehicle, which can feel pretty stressful.

But if you can find good used car dealerships that you can trust, the advantages of shopping at them are huge. First of all, they have lots of inventory from which to choose, which means a lot less running around to view cars here and there and everywhere offered by private sellers. You also have the ability to check dealerships out in advance online to see if they’re any good. You can look at the dealership’s website to see what kind of business model they use, and you can check their reputation by reading online customer reviews. For example, you can check what Auto City customers are saying at sites like DealerRater, Yelp, and Google. You can’t do any of that with a private seller.

The best used car dealerships will have transparent, up-front, competitive, no-haggle prices; have lots of high-quality cars for sale; let you, the customer, take the lead and not pressure you or try to upsell you; offer a warranty and a money-back guarantee; and help you line up financing if you need it. Many people find that those are well worth the slightly higher price you might pay for a used car at a dealership, but the final decision is yours to make.

Relevant Articles:

Tips When Making an Appointment with a Used Car Dealer

Buying a Used Car: Tips When Making an Appointment with a Private Party