Private Sale vs. Dealership: What’s Better When Buying a Used Car?

When shopping for a used car, many people often have no shortage of options. 

From driving past used car lots to scrolling through social media, it seems everyone’s trying to sell you a used car as soon as you start looking.

But determining the best option for you begins with choosing whether to purchase a car from a private seller or to go with a dealership.

There are pros and cons to each choice, and there really is no one right answer. Here’s some guidance to help you make the best choice to meet your needs:

Vehicle History

In general, a private seller is likely to have more information about a vehicle’s history than a dealership would. 

This is especially true if the person selling the car is the vehicle’s only owner. They can guide you through its maintenance history, whether it’s been in any fender-benders, and even give you an idea of some of the stranger quirks, such as the one window that sticks a little bit in the heat.

Because a dealership likely goes through hundreds – if not thousands – of vehicles in a year, it’s more difficult for the salesperson to truly give you the full lowdown on your vehicle of choice.

To help you get an idea, check through all the paperwork the dealership provides and pull a vehicle history report from CARFAX or AutoCheck.


When purchasing from a private seller, your financing options are typically limited. Many banks won’t finance used car purchases through private sellers, meaning you may find it easier to pay in cash when going this route.

Purchasing a used car through a dealership opens up a few more financing options, as many dealers have specific lenders they work with regularly. 

However, this option may mean that you are limited to choosing cars of specific ages or under a certain mileage to qualify, and may mean that you’ll pay more long-term when financing a car loan.


Depending on where you live, taxes can either be a benefit of buying in a private sale or buying from a dealership.

In some states, sales tax is not assessed on private vehicle sales. This means buying from a private seller can save you thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, some states only assess sales tax on the difference between your trade-in and the purchase price of a new car. This could be a very significant savings if choosing a dealership.

Purchase Price

Most everyone wants to find the lowest possible price when car-shopping. As a general rule, that’s going to be found when purchasing a vehicle through a private sale.

Because an individual seller doesn’t have all the overhead to factor into sales prices that dealerships do, you’re often going to pay a lower price buying directly from an owner than through a dealership.


Cars are big purchases, and it’s never fun to find out shortly after you’ve driven away that you bought a lemon.

When purchasing from a dealer – at least from a reputable one – the chances of you getting a bad car are lower than when purchasing from a private seller.

Dealers have a reputation to maintain, and many of them take that very seriously. So, if you have issues with a newly purchased vehicle that you don’t think you should have, many dealerships will look over the problem and fix it for you.

You just don’t have that same kind of recourse with a private seller, meaning you may be more at risk of losing a lot of money if you’re not certain what you’re looking at when car shopping.

Used Car Sales in Hyattstown, MD

At Burdette Brothers, we want to make sure that you’ve got a reliable, safe vehicle to get you where you need to go. We offer a wide selection of high-quality used cars for purchase, giving you the options you want at a price you can afford. Call today to discuss your used car purchase!

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