Should I Buy a Car from a Dealership or a Private Seller?

A common question that many people have when looking for a new car is: “Should I buy from a private seller or a dealership?” To help you answer this question, we’ve outlined different areas of searching for and buying a car that may be important to you, and the pros and cons dealerships and private sellers bring to the table for each area. Take a look below to see which you might prefer, and remember to take a look at our inventory while starting your used car search!

The Search Process

Your buying journey starts with your initial search, so let’s begin there. Whether you’re browsing online or visiting a lot, when you search for a car at a dealership, you’ll generally have a variety of different options to consider. With a broad range of makes and models to choose from, you should only have to visit a few dealerships in person before finding something you like. Buying from a private seller, however, can be a little trickier. Because you are only looking at one car for every trip you make, you may have to deal with a number of private sellers before you find a car you like. That means searching for a car online, contacting the seller, waiting for the seller to provide information on the vehicle, scheduling a time to meet with the seller, and traveling to the agreed upon location. This process can be incredibly frustrating due to the amount of time and effort it could take you to find the right vehicle.

Dealing with the Seller

When you work with a dealership you have the benefit of working with a trusted entity (assuming you did your research well). Dealerships have their reputations at stake, so they need to provide you with good service and a well-maintained vehicle if they want to stay in business. Salespeople are usually knowledgeable about the cars on their lot, so they can make recommendations based on your needs, giving you insight and guidance you may not have had otherwise. In addition, if you choose to buy a car from a dealership, the paperwork will be handled entirely by them; you won’t have to worry about things like the bill of sale, the title transfer, or vehicle registration.
In contrast, when dealing with a private seller, you have to evaluate their trustworthiness and take care of the paperwork on your own. The upside is that they most likely won’t talk you into buying a car that isn’t right for you.

Vehicle History

The fantastic thing about working with a dealership like Car City is that they can generally provide you with a vehicle history report and service records for the vehicles on their lot. These documents will give you some insight into how well the car has been cared for, if it has any lasting damage, and if it has had any serious repairs. Now, this may or may not be more useful to you than what a private seller can offer. Having driven the car themselves, a private seller can generally give you insight into how the car runs. They will be able to describe quirks the car might have and provide you with first-hand insight on the vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses. If you are dealing with a trustworthy individual this information can be very beneficial.

Warranties and Legal Protection

Cars purchased from a dealership often come with some kind of warranty, giving you protection if you purchase a vehicle that has preexisting damage. In addition, dealerships are required to follow strict laws that prevent them from selling faulty vehicles. Private sellers, however, generally sell their cars “as is.” This means that they are not responsible for any problems you notice with the car after you purchase it. So, even if all four tires fell off the first time you drove your newly purchased car, you could not hold the seller legally responsible.

Pricing and Financing

When it comes to vehicle price, the difference between a private seller and a dealership is somewhat case-by-case. Dealerships often have sales deals and will offer low prices for cars that they just want to move off their lot. Private sellers tend to go by the Kelly Blue Book price of their vehicle and are often willing to negotiate on price. So, whether you get a lower price from a dealership or from a private seller really depends on the timing, the people you negotiate with, and the condition of the car.
Financing, however, is a different story. Getting a bank to finance a used car can be incredibly difficult because banks have no reason to trust private sellers and don’t want to take the risk of a buyer walking out on a loan. But when working with a reputable dealership, it is a little easier to get financing. In fact, some dealerships (like us here at Car City) actually offer financing themselves. So, if you are looking to finance a vehicle, a dealership is probably the way to go.

Get Your next Car at Car City

Whether you’re leaning towards purchasing from a private seller or dealership, we at Car City know we can help you find a great car at a great price. With locations across West Michigan and Indiana, an extensive inventory with a variety of makes and models, and incredible financing options, we are the perfect option for you. Visit one of our locations or schedule an appointment today and we’ll have you driving off the lot with a fantastic vehicle for just $39 down. Just click here to get started!

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