Should I Buy From a Dealer or a Private Seller?

When you're buying a used car what's the difference between buying from a dealership and buying from a private seller?

A dealership will:

  • Abide by the law - dealers have to follow the Consumer Rights Act which supports the buyer.
  • Prepare the car - dealers prepare their used cars prior to offering them for sale; this means the car will be serviced, valeted, large stone-chips removed etc
  • Want to keep you happy - dealers value their reputation and with social media around, they want to ensure you have a good buying experience.

A Private Seller:

  • Can be cheaper - the Private Seller will not have spent any money preparing the car for sale, so their asking prices usually undercut dealers.
  • Has no legal obligations - there is nothing supporting the buyer when making a purchase from a Private Seller, so 'buyer beware', you must ask the right questions to secure the right information.
  • Has no reason to keep you happy - once you've purchased the car the transaction is over, if it breaks down a week
£20 bank notes

Buying from a Dealership v Private Seller

Buying used cars is something many of us enter into with trepidation; we’re going to spend a large amount of money on something that isn’t new and for most of us that’s quite an uncomfortable thought.

Of course, we want the best deal; the newest car we can afford, with the least previous owners and at the lowest price and used cars bought from a dealership ARE generally more expensive than buying privately. So, why is this and is it worth the extra cost?

The Price

The most attractive thing about buying a used car privately is the price. The used cars you see advertised in the online classifieds, such as Autotrader and Motors, are from a mix of private sellers and dealers. Those offered for a sale by private sellers, are generally less expensive.

And that’s the temptation, right there, to save money on what, on the surface, appears to be the same product.

But, are you comparing like for like; apart from the price, is the red, 19 plate VW Golf standing on Mr Smith’s drive, any different to the red, 19 plate VW Golf displayed on the dealer’s forecourt?

The Car

Certainly, at first glance, the two cars may look virtually identical; same colour, same year, same trim level, meaning the car from the private seller looks like a bit of a bargain. But, is it?

Closer inspection might reveal stone chips on the bonnet; maybe a few little dings and scratches. Inspection of the Service Book may show that the car is due a service and/or MOT in just a few weeks. All things which would have been addressed by the dealership in preparing their red, 15 plate VW Golf for sale.

Rectifying and addressing these issues will add to the cost of the car, so its selling price is not necessarily a true reflection of how much the car is initially going to cost you. Dealers spend money preparing used cars ready for sale; stone-chips, dings and scratches will be removed, the car will be given the appropriate service, as per the manufacturer’s schedule; it will have a warranty and if there are any problems you can go straight back to the dealer.

volkswagen business offers card image
Piggy bank with money next to it

The Private Seller

When you buy a car from a private seller the onus is on YOU the buyer, to ensure that the car you buy is as described. The seller is under no obligation to tell you about any problems the car may have, so if the seller chooses not to disclose a problem and you don’t find it on the test drive, it’s your bad luck.

The only thing the seller cannot do is tell an outright lie to you about the car’s history or condition; that’s why the onus is on YOU to ask the right questions. Even if you believe they have lied, you have to be able to prove that they knew about the problem and gave you a false answer. Hard to do, as how can your prove they knew?

A car purchased from a private seller is ‘sold as seen’, there is no law to state that the car must be of satisfactory quality or indeed that it need to be fit for purpose; so, in essence, when you buy from a private seller it’s at your own risk, ‘buyer beware’ as they say.

Clearly not every Private Seller is 'out to fleece you', most are probably perfectly genuine, the trouble is, how can you tell the good from the bad?

The Dealer

The first thing to remember is that when you buy from your local dealer, you do have rights under the Consumer Rights Act and unlike when you buy from a private seller the car needs to be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. Peace of mind for you, because if the car doesn’t reach this minimum standard the dealer is in breach of their contract with you.

On top of this, no reputable dealer wants to provide shoddy service or unsafe cars; their reputation is vitally important to them, especially in these days of social media. They’d far rather have happy customers recommending them to their friends and family, than unhappy ones, complaining all over Facebook and Twitter.

Remember there are some services a dealer can offer, which a private seller simply cannot:

  • Part exchange of your existing vehicle
  • Arrangement of a range of finance products to assist in the purchase of your next car
  • Dealers MUST check if the car has any outstanding finance or if it is stolen
  • Buy online or apply for car finance from the comfort of your home or reserve for only £49!

All things to consider when you're in the market for a used car.

Exterior of Crewe Audi dealership
A man getting flowers at a car handover

The Manufacturer

All the large brands have Approved Used schemes which are operated by their dealers. This means that not only do you have the back-up of the dealership when you buy a car from a dealer; you also have the weight of the manufacturer behind you.

Each manufacturer approved used scheme will offer slightly different benefits, but in general you can expect:

  • Pre-sale multi-point check
  • 12 months warranty
  • 12 months roadside assistance
  • 5 days comprehensive and complementary insurance, while you shop around for the best deal

These extras bring real benefits to the buyer and are really worth considering when you're choosing where to buy your next used car from.

The Choice

As the buyer, the choice is yours. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of buying privately and from a dealer and decide what’s most important to you; price or peace of mind?

Here at Swansway Group, We are delighted to offer a Click & Collect experience to help you purchase your next new or used vehicle. Browse our selection of cars on our website and get in touch via online enquiry, live chat or phone call to purchase online.

Find out more about how you can buy a car online with Swansway Group or find your Nearest car Dealer today!

Browse our range of new and used vehicles



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