Top Tips When Buying a Used Car Privately to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

You’ve spent weeks searching, scoured endless sites before finally finding your perfect car, but there’s a catch – it’s from a private seller. While buying from a dealership offers more buyer protection there are still many advantages to buying a car privately, especially when it comes to attaining your ‘dream car.’

Still, there are a few things to look out for when buying privately and to help you avoid getting a sore deal, we’ve collated all the best tips to consider when buying a used car privately.

Why Buy a Used Car Privately?

Although it is often deemed safer to buy from a dealership – they have to provide consumer rights as well as warranties to protect the buyer – buying privately is also a worthwhile venture for the right car. Some of the benefits include more opportunity to negotiate price and the ability to avoid any additional fees.

Top Tips When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller

1. Ensure it is “fit for purpose”

As the buyer of a private vehicle it is your responsibility to ensure the vehicle is fit for purpose. Since many of us aren’t experts who know exactly what to look out for, we advise taking along a knowledgable family member or a mechanic along to check the car. This could save you from purchasing a car with long-term problems that may not be visible at first glance. Simple things to check include:

  • The tyres
  • Rust on the engine or exhaust
  • Quality of interiors
  • How the car sounds when starting the engine 

2. Check the car’s history

There are certain documents you will want the seller to have when buying a used car privately. This will provide you with a good history of the car and will alert you to any issues it may have had. The specific documents you will want to attain are:

  • Registration number
  • MOT history and test number
  • Mileage
  • Make and model

It is important to also never buy a car without a logbook. The V5C logbook is proof of ownership and has to be updated at the time of purchase to document the change of registered keeper. Both parties will have relevant parts to update so ensure this is completed while you are present. Failing to action the changes may impact your legal rights as the new owner as well as present issues when taxing the car.

3. View the car in daylight

This isn’t always possible in winter months if you need to view the car after work, however this is imperative to see the true condition of the car. At night in darker lighting it is easier to conceal paint damage, rust and other aesthetic damage that can impact the resale value of the vehicle. It is also easier to inspect the engine and interiors in daylight, so try arranging a viewing on the weekend or on a brighter day.

4. Don’t be afraid to haggle

Haggling with a private seller is a great idea if you aren’t afraid of a bit of negotiation. It could save you a few pounds and provide you with an opportunity to keep within your budget. Have an idea of what you would like to pay after viewing the vehicle and drop it by £100-200 or more if there ae noticeable issues not disclosed in the description. Our advice here would be to start low to allow for the seller to increase the price.

5. Consider how to pay

Once you have viewed the car and are happy with its condition and have agreed on a price, the final thing to consider is the payment. Unlike a dealership you won’t be able to pay for the car privately via credit card, so you will need to consider your next options – bank transfer or cash. While a bank transfer is slightly safer as you don’t need to withdraw the amount which could be a lot if the car is expensive, cash payments has its benefits too. For instance, paying with cash often makes haggling a lot easier as sellers are likely to reduce the price if it means a quick cash sale.

If you are still unsure you can contact the seller to confirm their preference before viewing the car and agree on the price before coming back to collect it if you are unable to collect on the day.


Still unsure if buying a used car from a private seller is right for you? Read more about what to look for when buying a car or take a look at our selection of used cars online that you can book to view. Some even have conveninent online deposits, so you can reserve your perfect used car.