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Buying A Used Car In South Carolina From A Private Seller

Buying A Used Car In South Carolina From A Private Seller

When buying a used car from a private seller in South Carolina, the following vehicle-buying tips will help.

Quick links

What is the used car buying process in South Carolina?

How to complete a South Carolina title transfer?

What are South Carolina's fees for buying a used car?

Where is the best place to buy a used car in South Carolina?

During the car-buying process, it’s important that you stay safe and secure. This article will help you navigate the South Carolina car-buying process and stay safe.

Oh, and, by the way: PrivateAuto has private-party used cars for sale in South Carolina and also provides an end-to-end platform to get the deal done, from secure messaging with sellers to immediate payment transfers.

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What is the Process of Purchasing a Used Car in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, you’ll go through the following steps when buying a used car from a private owner.

  1. Find a seller who has the car you like
  2. Negotiate a price you both can agree on
  3. Schedule a test drive
  4. Take care of the paperwork
  5. Pay the seller
  6. Have the seller sign over the car title
  7. Register the car in your name and pay sales taxes and fees
  8. Get new license plates

Let’s go over the process in more detail.

Find a Car to Buy in South Carolina

Whether you’re looking for a simple family car, SUV or a barely-used luxury vehicle, you’re better off buying from a private party than from a licensed South Carolina dealer. Dealerships work by buying low and selling high to make a profit. Which is why it is better to cut out the middleman.

PrivateAuto has a wide selection of used cars for sale in Berkeley, Oconee, Marion, and other counties across the state of South Carolina. We offer security and convenience features that none of our competitors have.

We verify the identity of all sellers, so you can know who you’re negotiating with. You can go through the used car listings and make offers within our app, and when the seller accepts your offer, you can proceed to schedule the test drive. It all happens within our app and you never have to give out personal info to strangers.

Go For a Test Drive

Once you’ve found your dream car for sale near you, and settled on a purchase price, it’s time to take the car for a test drive.

Schedule the Meetup

All of our competitors will leave you to organize meetups on your own. This requires exchanging personal info and having a lot of back-and-forth with the seller. With PrivateAuto, your personal info is kept private. Our handy in-app scheduler allows you and the seller to negotiate the perfect time and place.

Research the Vehicle History

It’s always a good idea, along with taking a used car for a test drive, to research its history. You can get a detailed history report through a service like CarFax. Or, you can get a car history report when you buy it through PrivateAuto.

AutoCheck has partnered with PrivateAuto to provide buyers with a motor vehicle information check and report (which is not something other used car marketplaces do). When PrivateAuto sellers go for a Premium listing, we include the vehicle history report for your peace of mind.

For those who choose a Premium listing, they will be able to see important details about a car’s past such as:

  • Title liens
  • Accidents
  • Maintenance records
  • Reported stolen

Go Through Mechanical Inspection (Optional)

Before buying the car, it is wise to perform a mechanical inspection on it. This is at your discretion, and is more advisable for used cars that have higher mileage and cars that haven’t been driven for a while.

Depending on your mechanical skill level, you can inspect it yourself at the time of the initial test drive. Or, you can coordinate with the seller and have it inspected by a professional mechanic.

PrivateAuto gives you all the tools and technology necessary to close the deal at the test drive meeting. If you’re going for a professional car inspection, you’ll be adding at least a couple extra days onto the closing process.

Acquire and Fill Out the Documentation

Paperwork is a key part of the transaction process. Different states have different document requirements, but here is the most common documents involved in a used car transaction:

  • Title
  • Bill of sale
  • Odometer statement

Car Title

Both you and the seller will need to fill out the Certificate of Title thoroughly. Required information includes the following:

  • Buyer name and address
  • Selling price
  • Date of sale
  • Odometer reading
  • Buyer’s signature
  • Your signature

Odometer Disclosure Statement

When you are buying a car less than 10 years old, Federal law requires the seller to fill out the odometer reading statement (also called an odometer disclosure) on the back of the car title.

If there is no room left on the title, you can fill out the Federal Odometer Disclosure Statement

You can verify the accuracy of the odometer readings the seller enters on the title by checking the odometer yourself. Keep in mind that there are severe penalties for sellers tampering with car odometers in order to provide inaccurate readings.

Our handy app includes an odometer reading entry, where both parties (buyer and seller) confirm mileage before taking the next step.

Bill of Sale in South Carolina

In South Carolina, a bill of sale is not required when buying a car from a private party.

PrivateAuto includes a South Carolina bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the right phase in the car-buying transaction, both you and the seller will be encouraged to e-sign the bill of sale within their mobile PrivateAuto app.

The whole transaction, including the bill of sale, can be completed in just a couple minutes when you meet for the test drive and approve the car. It’s so fast and convenient you won’t believe it. And then, you won't have to keep track of all your paperwork, you will always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account to prove that the transaction was legitimate.

VIN Check

As a buyer, check the vehicle identification number that the seller has written on the title. Carefully compare it to the actual VIN on the vehicle. You want to avoid the problem of having the wrong VIN on the title when you go to register your newly-bought car with the State of South Carolina.

The PrivateAuto app has a VIN field where buyers and sellers individually confirm the vehicle identification number. This helps eliminate errors (or the rare case of outright seller fraud).

Emissions Certificate

South Carolina doesn't have any car emissions testing requirements.

Transfer the Funds to The Seller

It’s time for you to pay the seller for the car. There haven’t been a lot of safe ways to send a large amount of money in a private car transaction—until PrivateAuto arrived on the scene.

Welcome to PrivateAuto Pay

Our integrated banking gateway, PrivateAuto Pay, allows you to instantly send any amount. The seller will get the payment in a matter of seconds, whether it's a national holiday or late at night. We charge no payment processing fee. It’s truly revolutionary.

So, if you don’t like the idea of carrying a bag full of money or waiting for a check to clear, you’ll love PrivateAuto Pay.

Vehicle Financing Choices

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 handy auto loan calculator will tell you.

Vehicle Title Transfer

The essential component of the entire transaction is transferring a South Carolina car title from seller to buyer. When the seller signs the title and hands it to you, the car 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 South Carolina vehicle titles successfully, sellers must complete the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the front of the title certificate and include the name and address of the buyer, odometer information, the selling price, and the date sold.

What To Do When There Are Multiple Owners?

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.

Conduct Title Research

Before meeting with the seller, you should do preliminary research on the vehicle title.

Any South Carolina attorney will recommend using the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to conduct research on the title 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 or sell a vehicle that still has a lien title.

Good title research will help you check for:

  • The vehicle having been declared a total loss in an insurance claim
  • Reports of the vehicle having been stolen
  • Lien release

Finalize with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Once the seller is out of the picture and you are the car owner, you need to finalize the process with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (South Carolina DMV).

You’ll need to complete the following at your local DMV:

  1. Finalizing the transfer of title with the State of South Carolina.
  2. Registering the car in your name and getting new registration tags
  3. Paying taxes and fees
  4. Getting new license plates

Transfer the Title in South Carolina

After buying a used car in South Carolina from a private seller, you’ll need to complete an Application for Certificate of Title, attach it to the title, and submit it to the DMV along with the required documentation and payment.

What is Required to Complete a Title Transfer with SC DMV?
  • The current vehicle title certificate, signed over to you by the previous owner
  • A completed Application for Certificate of Title and Registration for Motor Vehicle (Form 400)
  • Lien information
  • Receipt for paid vehicle property tax
  • Payment for all applicable SC vehicle title transfer fees and taxes
  • Valid ID or driver's license

License Plates and Registration

Different states have different regulations for license plates in private car sales. Some states allow the plates to remain with the vehicle and pass to the buyer. Sadly, South Carolina is not one of those states. When you buy a used car in South Carolina from a private owner, SC law mandates that the seller must remove the license plates from the car.

South Carolina DMV offers vehicle registration by mail, for those who can't do it in person.

You’ll need to submit the following:

  • A completed Application for a Certificate of Title and registration for a motor vehicle
  • The name of your auto insurance company.
  • Paid vehicle property tax receipt
  • Payment for SC vehicle registration fees

If you don't register the car in 46 days of purchasing it, you will have to pay additional fees:

  • 46 to 60 days: $10
  • 61 to 75 days: $25
  • 76 to 135 days: $50
  • 135 + days: $75

What Fees Are There When Buying A Used Car In South Carolina?

The vehicle purchase price never includes the used car 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 South Carolina:

  • Title fee: $15
  • South Carolina sales tax: 2.9% on the purchase price of the vehicle
  • License and registration fees: $40
  • Infrastructure Maintenance Fee: 5% of the purchase price ($500 maximum), paid only when registering your vehicle for the first time.

PrivateAuto charges no buyer fees. The buyer is responsible for paying for the vehicle only and has no transaction-related costs on our platform.

Find Your Dream Vehicle in South Carolina with PrivateAuto

PrivateAuto makes buying a used car hassle-free. Whether you’re looking for a Ford F150, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500/2500/3500 or a lightly-used Chevrolet Silverado, 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.

Browse our used cars for sale in South Carolina.

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.

Get started here.

Browse the listings

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 meet-up for 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.)


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 on the spot

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.

Transfer car title

When purchasing a used vehicle, you must fill out the necessary information on the title transfer document.

Looking to sell your car? Choose PrivateAuto to get the best price and transact easily and safely!

South Carolina Car Buying FAQ

What is a temporary tag?

Paper license plates, also known as temporary tags, are issued to car buyers as temporary registration. They are also issued for demonstration cars in dealerships, vehicle transfers, or loaned cars.

What kind of insurance does my newly-bought used car need?

Used cars, just like new cars, are required to have liability auto insurance at a minimum. Every insurance company will have different rates, so shop around.

The South Carolina DMV requires you to carry evidence of your auto insurance in your car.

You can consider purchasing collision, comprehensive, and gap insurance for your vehicle, but these are not required in South Carolina.

How to protect yourself when buying a car privately?

To protect yourself when buying a car privately, we recommend the following practices:

  1. Never give out your contact information
  2. Deal with verified sellers only
  3. Have a bill of sale to legally validate the transaction
  4. 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).

Get started here!

Is it safe to pay in cash when buying a used car?

Buying a car in South Carolina 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.

Who pays for the title transfer fee in South Carolina?

When applying for a South Carolina title, the buyer is responsible for paying the title transfer fee. The buyer will also pay registration fees and license plate fees.

Who pays the sales tax on a used car?

The buyer is responsible for paying for the used car sales tax once they purchase the vehicle. As a seller, once you transfer the title to the new owner, you are no longer responsible for paying any taxes for the vehicle.

Are used cars covered under the SC lemon law?

The South Carolina lemon law applies to new cars only. Used cars are not protected.

Further Reading

Will used vehicle prices crash in 2023?

How to transfer a California car title

How to transfer a vehicle title to a family member

Understanding salvage titles

The complete guide to used car insurance

Carvana vs PrivateAuto comparison

What is DMV release of liability?

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