Why is this important?
Buying a car from a private seller – what you need to know
Buying a car privately could save you money, but it's riskier than buying from a car dealer. You will not have as much legal protection, and it may be more difficult to make sure that everything is above board.
This page outlines the key things you need to remember when buying a car from a private seller.
Top tipsAlways remember your personal safety when buying from a private seller. View the car at the seller’s home during daylight hours, and ideally take someone else with you. Never agree to view the car in a car park.
Find out about the car
Take your time to find out what you can about the car:
- inspect the car thoroughly
- consider getting a history check, which would show if there was outstanding finance or insurance claims or whether it was reported stolen
- consider getting an independent report, which would tell you more about the condition of the car, although it can be expensive.
- Checklist for inspecting a used car
- How to check a car’s history
- How to get an independent report into a car’s condition
Know your rights
When you buy a car from a private seller, you have the following rights:
- the seller must have the right to sell the car
- the car must match its description.
Does the car match its description?
Description covers all statements made about the car, in writing, in a conversation over the phone or in the showroom, in a newspaper, website, email or text, or in documentation.
Is the seller really a private seller?
Sometimes dealers pose as a private seller to avoid their legal obligations and to dispose of faulty or over-priced cars. It is illegal for a car dealer to pretend to be a private seller. Look out for these warning signs:
- adverts which give a mobile phone number or specify a time to call (it may be a public phone box, not the seller's home)
- cars advertised for sale in car parks, roadsides or other public spaces as well as in local newspapers and shop windows, and the same phone number appears in several adverts
- when you phone about the car, the seller asks "Which one?"
- the seller wants to bring the car to you or meet you somewhere, rather than you going to the seller's home.
- when you get to the seller’s home and there seem to be a lot of cars for sale on the street
- the seller's name does not appear on the logbook as the last registered keeper
Is the car roadworthy?
The car you buy must be roadworthy. This means it must be fit and safe to drive. The Road Traffic Act makes it illegal for anyone to sell a car that is not roadworthy. This applies equally to private sellers and car dealers.
- A guide to choosing a secondhand car
- What to watch out for when buying a secondhand car
- If you need more help
- The Which? guide to buying a second-hand car from www.which.co.uk