Should you Buy from a Used Car Dealer or a Private Seller?


So, you’re looking for a great used Audi A4 in Los Angeles…. Where do you find it? You’ve got two basic options: a used car dealer or a private seller. Each one of these options has its own risks and benefits, but it’s up to you which one you’d prefer once you know the facts.

Cost of the Vehicle

On average, private sellers are going to have lower prices than used car dealers. This is because used car dealers shoulder the costs of maintaining the cars, getting them up to standard, and taking care of the administrative expenses of their business. All of this can add some extra cost to the cars as salespeople want to make as much as possible on each sale.

Private sellers usually just want to make more than the dealers were willing to give them for the car. Trade-in and buying values from dealers are notoriously underpriced, so it’s easy to understand why a private seller would have incentive to price more competitively!

Maintenance Standards

Car dealers usually have better maintenance standards for used cars. You can mostly rely on them fixing up the car properly before selling it, although you still need to ask for the car’s full history. Some dealerships may have shady practices around maintenance, but in general most do a decent job and won’t sell you a car that breaks down as soon as it leaves the lot.

Private sellers pose more of a risk for maintenance. If the private seller took good care of the vehicle, especially if they are the original owners or if it wasn’t owner by many other people before them, the car will probably be in great condition and will work well for you. However, it may be difficult to know if they took good care of it or not. Requesting the car’s history is useful, if you can get it from the seller.


This is rather straightforward. While dealerships may offer some sort of guarantee, private sellers almost never will. If a guarantee is important to you, you’ll need to choose a car dealership.

Convenience and Interactions

Having to meet a lot of strangers to inspect used cars from private dealers can be a big downside for many buyers. Car dealerships do offer convenience, since many cars are available on the same lot, so you may only need to go to one place and meet with one salesperson.