The first thing to do when buying a car privately is make sure you have a good idea of the type of vehicle you would like to buy. Think about your motoring needs such as do you need petrol or diesel, 5 or 3 doors, insurance, and road tax costs. Narrowing down the type of vehicle you want will help you make the right long-term decision.
Websites such as Auto Trader and Motors are a good starting point as they are the most popular vehicle advertising sites and the majority of car sellers (private or dealerships) will use them to promote their vehicles. Also, Gumtree is a popular site for private sellers.
What to check when buying a used car from a private seller?
The first thing to check is to make sure the seller has the right to sell the car. Make sure they can provide details of their identification and ensure their name is on the ownership documents.
The vehicle should match the description given by the seller. Check the specification is accurate and that all the features listed in the advert are there.
Check the vehicle’s mileage is consistent. Go through the service history and MOT history.
The car must be roadworthy – it is a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. Make sure you do some checks on the vehicle or if you are not confident you know what you are looking for, maybe ask a friend to go with you who does know a thing or two about cars.
Check that the price the vehicle is advertised at is correct and in line with market value. You don’t want to be paying over market value for it.
Make sure you carry out an HPI check. This check will tell you if the vehicle has any outstanding finance on it, if the vehicle has been stolen, has been an insurance write-off, the number of previous owners, and MOT history check.
You won’t have the same legal protection as you would if buying from a dealership. It’s up to you to ask the right questions and inspect the car thoroughly before you buy.
Read more advice on what to inspect when buying a used car.
How to finance a car from a private seller?
Getting car finance for a private sale is reduced in comparison to dealership financing. It is unlikely you will be able to find a Hire Purchase or PCP finance provider that will provide a car loan for a vehicle that is from a private seller.
If you find the perfect vehicle from a private seller you will need to pay cash or you could get a personal loan, where funds are sent straight to your bank account. Then you could just transfer the funds to the seller’s bank account.
What is the safest way to pay for a second-hand car?
The safest way would be to ensure there is a trace of the transaction taking place. So, a bank transfer from a bank account in your name to a bank account in the name of the person who owns the vehicle would ensure this. Once you have the vehicle make sure they provide you with a receipt to confirm they have received funds for the vehicle.
Handing over cash to someone is not a good idea as there is no trace the money has come from you and no record of them ever receiving the cash.
What are your rights when buying a second-hand car privately?
The car must be “of a satisfactory quality”, “fit for purpose” and “as described”. For a used car, “satisfactory quality” takes into account the car’s age and mileage. The problem with this is that it could be open to interpretation.
If you notice a problem soon after purchasing the car and wish to get a refund, you’ll have to prove that the vehicle was damaged when you purchased it. If you have added many miles to it, this may be hard to do.
If the seller is not willing to refund the car purchase, then you may have to resort to going to court. However, even if the law is in your favour, recuperating your money through the courts can be costly and time-consuming so you would need to weigh this up with the losses you have already incurred.
Can I get my money back from a private car sale?
If you change your mind after the purchase of the vehicle you could ask for your money back, but the seller is under no legal obligation to agree to cancel the sale. You should be 100% sure you want that car when you purchase from a private seller, and it should be a well through-out purchase. Make sure you take your time when deciding as it may be very hard to get a refund.
Re-registering and taxing your car
To make sure that you are the registered new keeper of the car you’ll need to have the V5C, often called the logbook. When you’re purchasing the car from a private seller it’s a legal requirement that they provide you with the detachable V5C/2 slip.
The seller will then need to formally transfer ownership with the DVLA, they’ll provide them with all your details such as full name and UK address, to register you as the car’s new owner.
Once the vehicle is registered in your name you will be able to purchase road tax for it via the DVLA.
Read our blog post on what to consider when buying a used car for more advice on making your next car purchase.