While new car sales continue to plummet, the used car industry is thriving. Used cars may not have all the luxury and frills of the latest vehicles, but they’re affordable alternatives if your savings start to thin.
There’s no question that you should buy a used car. The real question is this: From whom should you purchase your vehicle? You could go through a used car dealer or private seller.
The option you choose will have a serious impact on price and convenience. That’s why it’s so important to know what each option brings to the table. Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying a used car from a dealer or private seller.
1. Best Financing: Used Car Dealer
A used vehicle is less dependable than a new one. Why does this matter?
Because you’ll need a loan. As you know, banks and other lending institutions avoid risk whenever possible. And a used car carries a decent amount of risk, as you never know when an older, critical component suddenly stops working.
For this reason, buying a used car from a private seller can cost you through high interest rates. After all, you have to finance the purchase yourself. Many institutions refuse to finance used car sales that come from private sellers, while others have restrictions, such as a mileage cap.
On the other hand, a used car dealer has pre-established connections to a lender with guaranteed financing. This saves you from the hassle of shopping around and negotiating with nearby banks. Depending on your credit score, financing through a dealer can carry competitive or lower rates than going it alone.
To make sure you get the deal you deserve, read our article on financing a used car.
2. Best Price: Private Seller
In most situations, a private used car seller will have lower prices than a used car dealer. Remember that a dealer has to pay for a host of employees, building and marketing expenses, and sometimes its own on-staff mechanics. Customers keep the dealer in business by paying a little more than they would otherwise.
A private seller doesn’t have to worry about making a profit. Usually, they just want to get the vehicle off their hands as fast as possible. And, if you know how to negotiate a used car deal, you’ll have an easier time talking down a private seller.
Keep in mind that due to private financing concerns, the price difference between a dealer and a private seller may not be as significant as it first appears. A high interest rate can quickly sour even the best used car deals.
3. Most Trustworthy: Used Car Dealer
Many people have a negative view of car dealerships. It’s true that car salesmen are just that — salesmen. Their income relies on successful sales.
But driving a hard bargain doesn’t mean a used car dealer is trying to take you for a ride. A variety of federal and state regulations ensure dealers do their part to protect sellers and sell vehicles in good condition.
For instance, you can expect perks like a statutory warranty that will cover repairs following the sale. Used car dealers also have to worry about their reputation. If they sell clunkers and refuse to repair or void the sale, that dealership won’t last much longer once word gets around.
A private seller doesn’t have to offer things like warranty or pledge to fix unexpected complications. When you buy a car from a private seller, you buy the vehicle as-is.
In short, a used car dealer offers more protection and is more trustworthy than a random private seller. To avoid the run-around that comes with some car dealerships, do some car negotiation research to get the best deal.
4. Best Vehicle History: Private Seller
To some extent, this category is a toss-up. A private seller knows what their vehicle has been through. From accidents to new parts, even a Carfax document can’t give you the whole story.
But this assumes the private seller has some degree of automotive knowledge. It’s not unusual for some car owners to drive their vehicles into the ground without paying attention to check-up milestones or repairs.
A car dealer can only go by the vehicle history reports. Those tend to tell a decent story. And if the private seller doesn’t know anything more than the report, they’re no better than a used car dealer.
5. Easiest Purchase: Used Car Dealer
Buying a used car is complicated. From federal to state laws, there’s a lot of paperwork to sign. And it’s easy to miss.
If you go through a private seller, take a look at your local DMV website to try and determine what you’ll need to sign. You’ll also need to visit the DMV after the sale and hope you’ve done everything by the book.
You won’t find great organization on most DMV websites, so you’ll probably never be certain you’ve done everything right until the very end of the process.
A used car dealer will handle all the paperwork for you. You don’t have to worry about a trip to the DMV, doing the research, or (with some dealers) signing up for a license plate. Now that’s peace of mind.
What’s the Best Way to Buy a Used Car?
A used car dealer offers a significant safety net, convenience, and reliable vehicles. So long as you can afford the higher price tag, going through a dealer rather than a private seller is usually the better option.
If you’re searching for a used car in south Florida, Monster Cars is here for you. Skip the walk around the car lot by searching our online inventory.