Private auto sales have fewer legal options

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2021 | Consumer Fraud |

It is common for a private party to sell their used vehicle to another private party. These agreements are typically valid. And there are certain advantages to buying a car or truck from a private seller. The most notable for many is that the vehicle is cheaper than at a dealership. The reasons for this can include the person selling their car has little overhead. In contrast, a dealer has to pay the salesperson, cover the administrative costs, refurbish the vehicle, and cover other expenses like advertising. The private seller can also name their price, which may be lower because they have fewer costs and may be more open to negotiation.

Disadvantages to buying from a private citizen

Typically, vehicles are sold “as is,” which means that the auto can have various known and unknown flaws or problems that the seller may not be obligated to compensate or refund the money paid. They may also be strangers, which can mean less accountability if they disappear after closing the sale. Moreover, the buyer has to do all the registration, title transfer and other DMV-related issues.

Advantages of buying from a dealer

The most significant advantage to buying from a dealer is state and federal consumer protection laws. Businesses are also typically more concerned about their professional reputation and may be more accommodating to the buyer if there is an issue. Moreover, the dealer will often have short-term warranties and auto certifications that can provide additional peace of mind when buying a vehicle. The dealership may also be able to arrange car loans and accept the previous vehicle as a trade-in.

Advice when buying from a private seller

Unless the seller is a friend or acquaintance, the private seller is an unknown commodity. This could lead to potential risks. They could fraudulently represent themselves when selling the car. For example, they may not be the actual owner or may not be authorized to sell it.

  • Be careful if they insist on cash because it could be a setup for robbery. Potential buyers can avoid this by meeting in a public place with others around.
  • Check the VIN
  • Have the vehicle checked out by a mechanic before buying to validate the seller’s information, such as odometer readings and the vehicle’s vehicle’s health.
  • It also is a good idea to take a picture of their driver’s license and mail it to a friend before getting in the car for a test drive.

Attorneys can provide legal guidance

The transaction is voided if the seller committed fraud during the sale. However, it may be necessary to work with an attorney who handles consumer fraud cases involving cars, trucks or SUVs. Regardless of what the seller claims, buyers consult with a lawyer if there is a dispute regarding the vehicle or the price.