Should I buy from a dealer or private seller?

Roman Danaev

There has long been a buoyant market in used car sales in the UK — and it seems to be growing year on year. In 2016, for example, more than 8 million used cars were sold in the UK — an increase of 7.3% on the previous year — according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on the 15th of February 2017.

If you are part of that huge buyers’ market, however, should you make your used car purchase from a dealer or through a private sale? Here are some of the pros and cons:


  • your rights as a consumer are better protected by law if you buy from a dealer;
  • the vehicle has in all likelihood been inspected by the dealer and any major faults repaired;
  • the car is likely to come with a warranty — if it’s a nearly new used car, this might be the remainder of the manufacturer’s warranty, but if it is the dealer’s warranty alone, look out for any restrictions on the terms of the cover;
  • although buying from a dealer is almost always more expensive than a private purchase, you might still get a good deal on models that the dealer is especially keen to move from his forefront;
  • a dealer may offer to take your current car in part exchange — a useful way of raising the deposit, say, on any finance you need to arrange, but bear in mind that a dealer’s price on the part exchanged vehicle might be considerably less than if you sold it privately;
  • nevertheless, a part exchange deal saves you the hassle and uncertainty of trying to find a private buyer for your current car;
  • you might also be tempted by the car finance which the dealer is almost certain to offer as an incentive for buying a particular model from his business — an invariably better deal on car finance, however, may be likely to come from the finance you arrange completely independently from brokers such as ourselves here at;

Private sales

  • that same finance that we have provided might just as easily be used to buy your second-hand car from a private seller;
  • there is a greater risk in buying privately because you might not have the opportunity for a detailed mechanical inspection and there may yet be undiscovered faults — your purchase comes with no warranty, other than the caution “buyer beware”;
  • as the Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine points out, most cars sold this way are “sold as seen”, so there is little legal protection of your rights as a consumer;
  • nevertheless, you do have the chance to meet the previous owner, from whom you might learn useful tit bits of the vehicle’s history, maintenance and service record;
  • probably the biggest attraction as far as most buyers are concerned is the fact that private sales are likely to be considerably cheaper than purchases through a dealership — and if the seller is especially keen to get rid of the unwanted vehicle quickly, you stand the chance of striking an even more favourable deal.

Thus, there are advantages and disadvantages whether you buy from a dealer or through a private sale. With finance already agreed through us here at, the choice is entirely yours to make.

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