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What are your rights when buying a used car from a private seller?

What are your rights when buying a used car from a private seller?

What are your rights when buying a used car from a private seller? This guide explains everything you need to know when buying a car privately.

Buying a car privately - your rights and everything you need to know

A brand new car will typically lose between 15% and 35% of its value in the first year and as much as 50% or more over three years. This means buying a used car can be a great way to get a good deal.

But buying a car privately can be fraught with tensions and pitfalls, as you don’t get the same protection as when buying from a dealer, especially in terms of warranties and breakdown cover.

That’s why it’s important to know your rights as a private buyer and have an idea of the things you should look out for when buying a used car.

What are the pros and cons of buying a car from a private seller?

Buying a used car from a private seller is often cheaper than going to a dealership, but you need to make sure you’ve worked out the advantages and disadvantages before you start looking.

What are the advantages of buying a car privately?

  • Get a better deal on the car - A private seller will usually charge less for a used car than a dealership. You might also be able to negotiate a better price as private sellers aren’t usually looking to make a profit and will want the sale done as quickly as possible.
  • No upselling and sales patter- Private sellers don’t offer additional warranties or extras, so there’ll be no upselling that can drive the price higher. And because private sellers don’t sell cars for a living, you’ll be negotiating on a more level playing field and without the usual sales patter.  When you speak to the owner you’ll be better able to tell if they have a genuine reason for selling or if they’re just trying to get rid of an unreliable car.
  • Get a better feel for the car - When you buy privately and meet the owner, you’ll instantly get an idea of how well it’s been looked after and maintained. If it’s clean and has nothing more than the expected wear and tear, it’s likely to have been looked after.

What are the disadvantages of buying a car privately?

  • Unnecessary haggling - Some sellers will overvalue their cars, sometimes because they want to make more money than it’s worth, or sometimes because it’s been their pride and joy for the last few years. If they’re asking close to what a dealership could ask, you could find yourself embroiled in an unnecessarily long bartering process.
  • You need to know what faults to look for - A good dealership will put its used cars through a health check before selling, whereas private sellers don’t really need to - if there’s something wrong with the car, it becomes your issue as soon as the money has changed hands. This means you need to have a good idea of the car’s common faults and any potential issues when giving it the once over.
  • You have fewer buyer’s rights - The biggest downside when buying privately is that you have fewer buyer’s rights than when you buy from a dealer. This means you could have little or no comeback if the car breaks down on the way home from buying it. That’s why it’s important to know your rights when buying a used car from a private seller.


Buying a car privately is often cheaper than going through a dealership, but there is less consumer protection available. So make sure you do your research before you buy, find out the most common faults on that particular model and go armed with a list of relevant questions for the seller.

Zuto work with a number of lenders who offer used car finance and have lots of experience with private sales.

What are your rights when buying a used car from a private seller?

There are only a handful of legal terms that cover the private sale of a car. They are that:

  • The seller must have the right to sell the car - This means they should be the registered owner on the V5C certificate or be able to prove the owner has given them permission to sell.
  • The vehicle must match the description given by the seller - This means that if the car is advertised as ‘low mileage and one previous owner’ then this must be the case. But the seller is under no obligation to disclose any faults.
  • The car must be roadworthy - Any car sold privately must be roadworthy, and it’s a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy car. Bear in mind that an MOT certificate only guarantees that the car was roadworthy at the time of its test. Make sure you check the MOT history carefully when buying a car privately.

Because you have less protection when buying privately, you need to be extra vigilant when buying, which means asking the right questions and giving the car a thorough once over. If you don’t feel confident doing this, try to find a mechanically-minded friend or family member to do it for you.

If you’re a member of a motoring organization, like the AA, you could also pay for one of their mechanics to do a check.

How to sell a car privately in the UK

When selling your car privately, you need to make sure it’s attractive to buyers in terms of condition and price. Here are some tips to help you sell your car as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

  • Make sure it’s ready to be sold - remember, it’s a criminal offence to sell a car that’s not in roadworthy condition, so it might be worth getting a fresh MOT before you put it on the market. Having a full 12 month MOT is also be a good selling point. You should also gather together all the necessary paperwork, including the V5C (also known as the logbook), user’s manual, service history, and any other relevant documents. Then give it a good clean and it’ll be good to go.
  • Give it a fair asking price - This is the hard part - too high and it’ll put people off, too low and you’ll be selling yourself short. If you’re just after a quick sale, lowering the asking price might be a good tactic if you can afford to. To work out the asking price, take a look online to see how much similar cars are going for.
  • Get your advert right - As the seller, you’re obliged to make sure the details in the advert are a fair representation of the car you’re selling. The advert should include the vehicle make, model and spec, along with the asking price. And you should also talk up all the positives, such as low mileage, long MOT, and any other things that could make it stand out. Selling online is usually the most effective way to sell, so consider sites like eBay, AutoTrader, and other listings sites. It’s also worth stating in each ad that it’s listed elsewhere, as this can both set buyer expectations and create a sense of urgency.

You’ll now be ready to meet any prospective buyers when there are a few more things you’ll need to keep in mind.

  • Never let a buyer take the car for a test drive alone, and only take them on busy, well-populated roads.
  • Before letting a buyer go out on a test drive, get their full name, address, phone number, and make sure they have their driving licence and proof of insurance to hand. If they don’t have these details to hand, you should do the demonstration driving instead.
  • Never hand over the keys until you have the cash in your hand or proof of the money in your account.

Once the car is sold, get the buyer to fill in the ‘new keeper’ section of the V5C logbook before both signing the declaration. The buyer should then keep the small V5C/2 section of the form as proof of the change of ownership until their new V5 arrives.

You’ll need to confirm to DVLA that the car has been sold, which you can do by posting the remaining part of the V5C or by using DVLA’s online system.

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