Buying a used car from a dealer vs private seller

Pros and cons

For peace of mind, buy a used car from a supplying or franchised dealer rather than an independent trader.

You pay more but get an improved customer and after-sales service for more peace of mind.

You’ll also get a ‘buying experience’ and relaxed approach from a salesperson who benefits from more than a commission-only salary.

Irrespective of buying a car privately or from a dealers, its good practice to get a car reg check report that looks a car’s history like mileage fraud, salvage and theft.

CarVeto database provides a free check for all UK motorists.

Dealer Or Private Seller

Watch out for independent car dealer safety checks

Some privately-owned dealers (non-franchised) offer ‘safety check’ services for all used cars. This type of promise does not equate to a stable, reliable car and is often little more than a brief inspection to see that car features are working as they should.

For example, the RAC 82 point check scheme for privately run traders has received some poor reviews. Do not rely on such schemes in terms of a buying decision.


Used car Consumer Rights buying from a dealership

Whenever you buy a product, be it a car, electrical or household item, you have a plethora of rights. Your new car must be ‘fit for purpose’ and of a satisfactory condition and in keeping with stated age, mileage and condition.

Our sold as seen car guide is a good read for anyone buying from a trader.

Find Out Your Rights When Buying A Car From A Dealer In The UK

As a consumer, your rights are robust in the first thirty days after purchase, as the trader must meet their legal obligations.

Buying from a private seller vs dealer

Buying a car from a private seller can save some money, but it comes with more risk. If you encounter mechanical issues resulting from a private seller purchase, you’ll have a hard time getting compensated. There is some grey area around the rights of an individual when they buy privately.

If you experience problems, contact the seller and ask for help. If this proves to be unsuccessful, get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau and explain the circumstances.

What is wear and tear on a car?

Keep in mind, the price paid for the car, its age and mileage. Buying a ten-year-old car with 80,000 miles on the clock comes with obvious risk.

Expect worn parts as the car is nearer to its end of life.


However, buying from a dealership always provides you with buyer protection via the Consumer Rights Act 2015 used car. The price you pay for a vehicle does not dilute your protection. If you buy a car for £500, it needs to be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

If a dealer tells you the car is just a P/X and therefore Sold As Seen, don’t believe them. It’s illegal for a dealer to make these types of claims or to include them on an invoice.

Always get a receipt and pay for the car via a credit/debit card or bank transfer.

If you run into problems and the dealer is unhelpful, get in touch with the CAB. There is more information here on the Money Advice Service.

How to choose a dealer you can trust

Private motorists tend to earmark a few cars they like before heading to the dealers for a look.

Popular car manufacturers have a supplying dealer (Approved) in most towns or cities around the country. Popular ones include:


There are more extensive, independent dealers that might be worth a look too.

You might be interested in our latest guide on car buying sites (including how to buy or sell a used car). 

Take precautions with private sellers

With little buyer protection should things go wrong with your new car, a private seller is the least appealing, even with the chance to save some upfront cash.

How to minimise your risk when buying from private sellers


  • Always get your own CarVeto car check and don’t rely on an old report the seller has kept as it might be outdated. Keep in mind; vehicle status can change in 24-hours, i.e. classed as written-off or stolen.
  • As part of your CarVeto checks, ensure there is no outstanding finance. It is illegal to sell a car that belongs to a finance company.
  • Be sure to view the car at the seller’s address and not a local landmark or lay by.
  • Check the seller’s address matches the one on the V5C registration document.
  • See when the current owner bought the car as displayed on the logbook ‘date of change of ownership’ section. A recent purchase and sale may be a red flag.
  • Ask why they are selling the car.
  • Does the private seller have a service history for the car?
  • Ask about servicing and if it is reliable.
  • Pay with a BACS transfer rather than cash (keeping a paper trail might be useful in case there are issues down the road).
  • Get a written receipt including yours and the seller’s name and address, date of sale and description of the vehicle including its registration mark.
  • Ask for the spare set of keys (just in case).