Purchasing used is a very popular option for many in-market vehicle buyers, making up more than 30% of franchise dealership’s total vehicle sales for the last five years according to an Edmunds report. Though buying pre-owned inventory from a dealership is most common, there are many valuable resources such as Craigslist and Autotrader that do a great job connecting consumers directly with the vehicle owner as an alternative to the dealership.
While it’s true that buying from a dealership can seem safer --dealing with a business who has certified and reconditioned much of their used inventory-- buying from a private party can be just as safe if you do your homework and learn as much as possible about the vehicle of interest.
In this guest post, the folks over at Instamotor, a peer-to-peer used car marketplace, highlight some of the most popular reasons why many consumers love buying used vehicles directly from the owner.
1. There can be greater insight into maintainence history
Responsible car owners tend to save everything, and we mean everything. With access to receipts, service records, and even old parts in some cases, buyers can gain an excellent understanding of how well the car was taken care of.
Buying a used car is all about whittling down the unknown prior to purchase. While vehicle history reports are a great way of gaining insights on the life of a vehicle and identifying major red flags, connecting with the owner can be even more valuable when they’ve meticulously kept records of all services and repairs. A vehicle history report doesn’t always tell the full story.
2. It is easier to negotiate
The major difference between buying from a private party rather than from a dealership is that you are negotiating directly with the vehicle owner who isn’t motivated by commission goals. It is a more straight-forward negotiation, as a private owner wouldn’t have other products and services (such as service contracts or warranties) to upsell. This allows the focus to be purely on determining a purchase price that works best for both parties.
3. The owner knows their vehicle best
One thing the owner can tell you about the car that the dealer simply cannot is how well it functions. A dealership might have hundreds of cars on their lot at any given time and simply cannot familiarize themselves with every single piece of inventory. Most private sellers have been driving their cars daily and have picked up on all the various idiosyncrasies, like stuck door handles or the kind of oil the car has become accustomed to. The dealership simply does not have enough time and resources to pick up on every last detail, especially if it doesn’t go through the certified pre-owned program (CPO) where used vehicles are inspected rigorously.
4. It is less expensive
Dealerships typically charge more for a used vehicle to cover reconditioning and overhead expenses. Buying from a private party negates all of that since, unlike dealerships, private sellers aren’t trying to make a living in the car sales business and therefor aren’t as concerned about turning a profit.
Though buying direct is a great option for many consumers, dealerships certainly have their merits. It may be more expensive and not as hands-on, however, dealerships inspect all of their used vehicles and are required to address all outstanding recalls before sale. They also offer certified pre-owned vehicles that have been reconditioned and packaged with an extended warranty and other service features. Additionally, you’ll spend less time on the paperwork involved, as the dealership can complete most of it on their own.
There is no right or wrong way to buy a used vehicle. It ultimately comes down to preference. Some consumers would prefer to be in control of the entire process by purchasing from a private party, while others would rather spend a little more money and have the dealership do most of the legwork.
Here are a handful of websites that support private party used vehicle sales:
Autotrader – Used vehicle listings can be filtered by dealer or private party.
Craigslist - One of the most commonly used classifieds for all things, including used cars. They are not as secure, so you’ll want to watch out for scammers and fraud.
eBay - While it is technically a free platform, some sellers can pay for additional ad enhancements. They are also a great option for consumers looking for classic or vintage vehicles.
Instamotor - A used car marketplace where all vehicles are listed for sale by owners only. It’s a free service, and every listing comes with a free vehicle history report from AutoCheck. As a startup, Instamotor is currently only available in California and Texas.