Buying a Car: Private Party vs Dealership


If you’re in the market to buy a used vehicle, then you’ve probably already noticed that your online searches have yielded two main results: private party sellers and used car dealerships. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other; however, they do have distinct differences when we begin to compare the two. To help break these down, we’ve assembled a pros and cons list of each car-buying method.

The Pros of Buying from a Dealership


Since a dealership is a business, you should come to expect certain aspects from it that you might not get with a private seller. First, your point of contact or sales associate is going to know plenty about vehicles and should have a wide selection of them to choose from. Product knowledge and having more than one option makes the car-buying process easier on buyers.

The next big win for car dealerships is the certified pre-owned category of vehicles. In most cases, this means that the vehicle has no history of accidents, has low mileage, and has minimal wear and tear. Buyers are also afforded peace of mind knowing that the vehicle is up to date on maintenance and will be under limited warranty.

Finally, dealerships can offer a monetary advantage that private sellers can’t: financing. If you’re a used car buyer that is unable to pony up a large lump sum of cash for a car, getting financing is the perfect way to circumvent the problem.

The Cons of Buying from a Dealership


Remember earlier when we said that dealerships are a business? When taking that into consideration, you can be sure they value their profit margin just as much as they do customer service. One of the main cons of working with a dealership is they traditionally mark their cars up far more than private sellers. That’s because they’re trying to pay an entire staff as opposed to just one person.

The other big con is that it’s harder to negotiate with a dealership. Keep in mind, the person you’re going to be dealing with is a professionally trained sales associate. This puts car buyers at a disadvantage unless they happen to be skilled in the art of negotiation.

The Pros of Buying from a Private Seller


If you’re the type of car buyer that is price-driven, then you’ll be pleased to hear private sellers generally undercut car dealerships. The main reason they’re able to do that is because they’re not burdened with the same overhead a car dealership is. Private sellers don’t have a sales team to pay, so they’re able offer prices that are much lower than your nearest dealership.

Additionally, since private sellers aren’t professionally trained and can adjust the price as they see fit, they are usually much easier to negotiate with. This means that you can get a used car for much less than you bargained for if you play your cards right.

The Cons of Buying from a Private Seller


Unfortunately, price is the one big advantage that private sellers have over dealerships. After that, it becomes pitfall after pitfall of potential risk.

For starters, private sellers aren’t beholden to any of the same state and federal laws that dealerships must abide by. If you end up buying a lemon – you’re stuck with it. Buying the car “as is” means you don’t get to return it if it breaks down immediately.

Additionally, used cars from private sellers are generally not nearly as maintained as they are with dealerships. This means you’re likely going to be on the hook for an oil change, tire rotations, and other basic maintenance as soon as you get the car. Getting it caught up on everything is likely to be a financial headache.

Finally, going with a private seller means the onus is on the two of you to handle all the paperwork. This means getting the bill of sale in order, transferring the title, handling all the taxes and fees, and getting the car registered. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it’s the cost of doing business.

Ready to Buy a Used Car? Here’s Your First Step

Searching for used cars these days has never been easier. To kick things off, simply Google the term “used cars near me.” That should bring up a wide selection of vehicles in your direct vicinity. From there, you should be able to filter things down based on price, make, model year, and even the type of seller it is. Knowing what you know now, you can make an informed decision between going with a dealership or private seller.