Dealership or Private Party - You Decide

August 25, 2014
- by Danielle Spang


When you’re buying a car, purchasing from a private seller may seem easier than buying at a dealership. The purchase price could be cheaper, and you have more room to negotiate. But buying from the right dealer saves you the worry of being scammed by a private party, and could save you money in repairs and maintenance.

Buying from a private seller means they can sell you a car with unknown mechanical issues, previous water damage, or a car with a salvaged title - which means an insurance company has deemed the car a total loss due to damage after an accident. If a seller is in a hurry, they might not be honest about the condition of the vehicle or its history. If you’re considering a private seller, never go to look at a car by yourself, be sure to meet somewhere in public, and know that offers to ship a vehicle are almost always a scam.

Used-Car-PurchaseMany used car dealerships sell Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, which means the car has had a complete inspection, and often comes with a limited warranty. Dealers must provide consumers with a copy of the inspection report, and may not advertise a car as “Certified” if it has frame damage or is being sold as is. If a car is being sold as is, they are under no obligation to make repairs after the purchase date.

In California, private sellers are also not bound by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Used Car Rule. Which means they are under no obligation to provide you with a Buyer’s Guide. But for every used car that is for sale under $40,000, the FTC requires that a dealership post a Buyer’s Guide that will tell you whether or not the car comes with a warranty, and mechanical and electrical information about the car. The Used Car Rule does not apply to motorcycles and most recreational vehicles.

Purchasing from the right dealer not only provides you with guarantees that don’t come with the purchase from a private seller, it can also give you confidence in your purchase. But whether you’re purchasing from a private seller, or a dealer, get a vehicle history report and have it inspected by a private mechanic. Begin your search for an Accredited dealership at, and read our Tips for Buying a Used Car at a Dealership for more information. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed on this Blog are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BBB Serving Northeast California.