Should I buy a car from a dealer or a private seller?

Should I Buy From A Dealer Or Private

There are significant differences between buying a used car from a car dealership and buying one from a private individual. To aid you in selecting your best buying method, we have identified both the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Buying a used car from a car dealership

Advantages of buying from a dealership

The biggest plus to buying from a dealership can be summed up in the phrase “peace of mind”.
  • Car dealerships are obliged by law to guarantee title against stolen vehicles and ensure there are no previous unsettled financial agreements still pending on the vehicle.
  • Dealerships must declare and rectify all known defects. This is normally done before the vehicle is put up for sale.
  • A dealer sale always comes with a limited guarantee, as well as an inspection report (ask to see it). If anything goes wrong within the guarantee period, it is the dealership's responsibility to rectify it.
  • Added peace of mind comes in the form of extended warranties that are normally available for an additional cost.
  • Dealerships are usually safe, professional environments in which to inspect and transact.
  • The dealership will handle all of the necessary paper-work and can aid with financing and insurance if required.
  • Dealerships are service oriented and will go the extra mile to meet your needs.
  • Most dealerships accept trade-ins, should you wish to trade-in your current vehicle against your purchase.

Disadvantages of buying from a dealership

  • Dealership cars are usually more expensive than private sales.
  • While you will be informed about the condition of the vehicle, specifics regarding how the vehicle was driven, or any information on the previous owner/driver remain unknown.
  • Dealerships can be relentless in pursuit of sales and are often aggressive with their follow-ups.
Buying a used car from a private seller

Advantages of buying from a private seller

  • Privately sold vehicles will generally be cheaper than dealership vehicles.
  • Private sellers are usually more willing to negotiate price.
  • By dealing directly with the current owner/driver, you will be able to gather a lot more information about the car and how it has been driven and cared for.
  • The transacting environment is usually more relaxed, with less pressure from the seller than is customary with a dealer sales rep.

Disadvantages of buying from a private seller

  • Scammers often advertise attractive car deals in an attempt to trick would be buyers.
  • Private sellers often take chances. The advertised car may be a stolen car or a rebuild.
  • Physical safety is always a concern. Ensure that you meet in a safe environment and never go alone.
  • Banks do not finance used cars sold by private sellers. You would ultimately have to pay the full amount in cash, or get a personal loan.
  • There is always the risk of defects and mechanical problems with the car that occur after the purchase has been made, and while the Consumer Protection Act will protect you to a point, it is not always enforced.
  • To ensure that you are getting a good deal; the buyer needs to do a host of background checks on the seller, as well as checks on the car to ensure that everything is in order.
  • Once the sale is concluded, the new owner is responsible for all paperwork, transferring ownership at your city's vehicle registering department and getting new plates issued.
  • There is no option to trade-in your current vehicle. This needs to be dealt with independently.


Buying a used car from a private seller generally results in a cheaper purchase price, but comes with added risk. It is often worth paying the slightly higher price to purchase from a dealership to obtain the security and peace of mind offered.