When purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller in Pennsylvania, there are some basic tips to follow. This article will keep you on track and do the transaction safely.
It’s crucial that you stay safe and secure when buying used cars. Let’s talk about how to navigate the Pennsylvania car-buying process.
Oh, and, by the way, PrivateAuto has private-party used cars for sale in Pennsylvania and also provides an end-to-end platform to get the deal done. From immediate payments to secure messaging, we offer an unprecedented level of convenience and security for the transaction process.
Pennsylvania Used Car-buying Process
In Pennsylvania, you will go through the following steps when buying a used car from a private party.
- Find a seller who is selling a car you like
- Set a price you both can agree on
- Schedule a test drive
- Handle the documentation
- Pay the seller
- Have the seller transfer vehicle ownership
- Register the car in your name and sales taxes and pay fees
- Get new license plates
Let’s go over the process in more detail.
Find a Car to Buy
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly car or a barely-used luxury car, you’re better off purchasing from a private owner than from a Pennsylvania used car dealer. Dealerships need to buy low and sell high to make a profit. Better to cut out the middleman.
PrivateAuto has a wide selection of used cars for sale, and we have security and convenience features that none of our competitors have. For example, we verify the identity of all sellers, so you know who you’re negotiating with. You can browse used car listings and make offers within the app, and when the seller accepts your offer, you can proceed to organize the test drive. It all happens within the app and you never have to give out your personal info.
Take it For a Test Drive
When you find your ideal used car for sale near you, and settle on a purchase price, it’s time to take the car for a test drive.
Arrange the Meetup
Other used car marketplaces leave the meetup organization to you. Organizing the initial meetup traditionally requires exchanging personal info and having a lot of back-and-forth with the seller. But, on the PrivateAuto app, your personal info is kept private. Our handy in-app scheduler allows you and the seller to arrange the perfect time and place.
Research the Vehicle History Report
It’s always smart to research the car’s history before purchasing. You can get a detailed history report through a service like CarFax. Or, you can get a car history report when you use PrivateAuto.
AutoCheck and PrivateAuto have partnered in order to provide buyers with a motor vehicle information check and report. When PrivateAuto sellers choose a Premium listing, we include the car history report for peace of mind.
(Optional) Mechanical Inspection
Before buying a used car, you may want to perform a mechanical inspection on it. This is especially advisable for cars that have high mileage. If you are experienced enough, you can perform the pre-purchase inspection at the test drive. Or, you can get it inspected by a professional mechanic.
PrivateAuto gives you all the technology and tools necessary to close the deal at the test drive meeting. If you’re opting for a professional vehicle inspection, you’ll be adding at least a couple extra days onto the closing process.
Paperwork is a key part of the transaction process. Different states have different paperwork requirements, but here are the most common paperwork involved in a used car transaction.
Both you and the seller will fill out the Certificate of Title thoroughly. Required information includes the following:
- Signature (completed after payment)
- An odometer disclosure statement (for cars less than 10 years old)
- VIN (vehicle identification number)
Odometer Reading Statement
When you purchase a vehicle that’s less than 10 years old, Federal law requires the seller to complete the odometer reading statement (also called an odometer disclosure) on the back of the title.
If there’s no room on the title, complete the Federal Odometer Disclosure Statement.
You can verify the accuracy of the odometer reading the seller enters on the title by looking at the odometer yourself. Note that there are severe penalties for sellers tampering with vehicle odometers in order to provide inaccurate readings.
The PrivateAuto app includes an odometer reading entry, where both parties (buyer and seller) confirm mileage before taking the next step.
Bill of Sale in PA
In Pennsylvania, a bill of sale is required in private vehicle transactions.
PrivateAuto includes a Pennsylvania bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the appropriate phase in the transaction, both buyer and seller will be prompted to e-sign the bill of sale within their mobile PrivateAuto app.
The entire transaction, including the bill of sale, can be completed in minutes when you meet for the test drive and approve of the vehicle. It’s so fast and convenient you won’t believe it. And then, you’ll always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account to prove that the transaction was legitimate.
Check the VIN
When buying a used car, always check the vehicle identification number (VIN) that the seller has written on the title. Carefully compare it to the actual VIN on the car. You want to avoid the problem of having the wrong vehicle information number on the title when you go to register your newly-bought car with the State of Pennsylvania.
The PrivateAuto app has a VIN field where buyers and sellers individually confirm the VIN. This helps eliminate errors (or the rare case of outright seller fraud).
Emissions Testing in Pennsylvania
The following Pennsylvania counties require emission testing on any gasoline vehicle made after 1975.
If you are registering your car in any of these counties, proceed with an emissions test.
Exemptions to emissions testing:
- Vehicles 1 model year or younger with less than 5,000 miles
- Fully-electric vehicles
- Antique cars
Send Money to the Seller
It’s time for you to pay the seller for the vehicle. Until PrivateAuto arrived on the scene, there haven’t been a lot of safe ways to send large amounts of cash in a private car transaction.
Introducing PrivateAuto Pay
Our integrated banking gateway, PrivateAuto Pay, allows you to instantaneously send any amount of cash. The seller will get the money in a matter of seconds, whether after hours, on weekends, or during a national holiday. We charge no payment processing fee. It’s truly revolutionary.
So, if you don’t like the idea of carrying a briefcase full of money or waiting for your check to clear, you’ll love PrivateAuto Pay.
Vehicle Financing Available
Oh, and if you didn't want to pay out-of-pocket for your next car, you can apply for a used car loan right within the PrivateAuto app. When approved, your profile will show that you have verified funds, making you stand out from other buyers.
When closing the deal and sending payment, our lending partner will pay the seller in full. You'll make monthly car payments to the lender. It's that easy. Wondering how much your payments will be? Our auto loan calculator will tell you.
Transfer the Title
The key component of the entire transaction is transferring a vehicle title in Pennsylvania from seller to buyer. Once the seller signs the title and hands it to you, the vehicle is legally yours. There are still some steps remaining for you to take following the title transfer, but you now own the car.
To transfer Pennsylvania vehicle titles successfully, sellers must complete the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the front of the title certificate and include the following:
- A vehicle title (proof of ownership)
- Application for Certificate of Title (Form MV-1)
- Odometer statement
- Valid PA driver's license
- Proof of insurance
Title Transfer Fees
The title transfer process involves several fees. These include the registration fee, title transfer fee, license plate fee, and sales tax. You may also need to pay an emissions fee or gift tax, depending on your location and the vehicle.
These fees vary depending on the sale price, the original value of the vehicle, and your county. Some counties, for example, charge $51 for a title fee, $35-$84 for the registration fee, and $9 for the plate transfer fee.
What If There is More Than One Vehicle Owner?
If there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign the document in order for the title transfer to be legitimate.
Should You Conduct Title Research?
Before meeting up with the seller, it’s always good to do preliminary research on the car title.
Any Pennsylvania attorney will recommend using the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title of a potential used vehicle purchase to protect yourself from fraud. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive. For instance, they may try to pass off a salvage title as a clean title.
Good title research will help you check for:
- Reports of the car having been stolen
- The car having been declared a total loss in an insurance claim
- Release of lien
License Plates and Registration
Different states will have different regulations for license plates in car sales. Some states allow the plates to remain with the car and pass on to the buyer. Sadly, Pennsylvania is not one of those states. When you buy a used car in Pennsylvania from a private owner, Pennsylvania laws mandate that the seller must remove the license plate from the car as well as peel off the registration sticker.
Pennsylvania offers mail, in-person, and online car registration.
For the initial registration, you will need:
- Pennsylvania Certificate of Title
- Vehicle Sales and Use Tax Return/Application for Registration (Form MV-4ST)
- Driver's license
- Proof of insurance
Titling and registering the car for the first time can only be done in person at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
What Are the Fees When Buying A Used Car in Pennsylvania?
The car buying price never includes the used vehicle sales tax, registration, and title transfer fees, which the buyer will pay on top of the car itself.
Here are additional fees you'll pay beyond the purchase price when buying a used car in Pennsylvania:
- Title fee: $51
- Pennsylvania sales tax: 6.% on the purchase price of the car
- License and registration fees: from $35
Oh, and, by the way, PrivateAuto charges no buyer fees. The buyer pays for the car only and has no transaction-related costs on our platform.
Buying a Used Car in Pennsylvania with PrivateAuto
PrivateAuto makes buying a used car hassle-free. Whether you’re looking for a Ford F-150, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Malibu, or Toyota Camry, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride of your dreams.
We are the only end-to-end vehicle buying platform that gives you everything you need to get the deal done, from making offers to sending payments.
The PrivateAuto purchasing process consists of a few simple steps:
Register and get verified on PrivateAuto
To make PrivateAuto a safe place for everyone, we require email, phone, and driver’s license verification, including facial recognition.
Search for your dream car
It’s easy to browse listings of used vehicles for sale on PrivateAuto. Filter by make, model, mileage, year, and other criteria to make your search simpler and faster.
Make offers on cars you like
Make offers on cars that catch your eye. It’s up to you whether to accept the seller’s asking price, or to offer a lower price. You can also decide whether to accept ID-verified sellers only.
Schedule a test drive
As the buyer, you will want to test drive the car. No more back-and-forth texts. You never have to give out your phone number. Rather, use our handy scheduling feature to coordinate a time and place for a test drive. (Oh, and you’ll be able to finalize the transaction instantly at the test drive location, FYI.)
Take care of the paperwork
After you are satisfied with the car and the two of you have agreed on a purchase price, you can easily e-sign the Bill of Sale within our app, from your phone. With our shared documents feature, you can easily locate the paperwork needed after the sale.
Pay the seller
Before PrivateAuto, receiving funds was the most stressful part of the entire purchasing process, especially for any used vehicle purchases over $5,000. There just aren’t a lot of good ways to move large amounts of money quickly and conveniently.
Those days are over! Verify and send out the funds instantaneously with PrivateAuto Pay, our innovative banking integration. Guaranteed funds for transactions large and small.
When purchasing a used vehicle, you must fill out the necessary information on the transfer title document.
Looking to sell your car? Choose PrivateAuto to get the best price and transact easily and safely!
Pennsylvania Car Buying FAQ
What kind of insurance does a used car need?
Used cars, just like new cars, are required to have liability vehicle insurance at a minimum. Every insurance company will have different rates, so shop around.
The Pennsylvania DMV requires you to carry evidence of your auto insurance in your car, and also mandates these policy minimums:
- $3,000 for property damage
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
You can consider purchasing collision, comprehensive, and gap insurance for your vehicle, but these are not required in Pennsylvania.
What is a temporary tag?
Temporary tags, also known as paper license plates, are issued to car buyers as temporary registration. They are also issued for demonstration cars in dealerships, vehicle transfers, or loaned cars.
In the state of Pennsylvania, temporary tags cost $17 and are valid for 60 days.
How to protect yourself when buying a vehicle privately?
To protect yourself when buying a car privately, we recommend the following practices:
- Never give out your contact information
- Deal with verified sellers only
- Have a bill of sale to legally validate the transaction
- Send the payment through PrivateAuto Pay
The best way to protect yourself when buying a car privately is by buying it on a secure platform that offers these features (such as PrivateAuto).
Who pays for the title transfer fee in Pennsylvania?
When applying for a Pennsylvania title, the buyer is responsible for paying the title transfer fee. The buyer will also pay registration fees, sales taxes, and Pennsylvania license plate fees.
Is buying a car privately for cash a good idea?
Buying a car in Pennsylvania privately for cash can be a good idea, but only if you’re buying it from a trusted seller.
Choosing a private party will get you better deals than working with a car dealership.
PrivateAuto offers the immediacy of a cash payment without risk. Our PrivateAuto Pay feature is a full banking integration; when the buyer authorizes the funds to transfer through our app, money instantly moves from their PrivateAuto account into the sellers—24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
How long is the lemon law in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the lemon law is 12 months or 12,000 miles. Note that the lemon law specifically applies to dealerships, not to used cars purchased in a private sale.
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