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Buying a Car From a Private Seller In Florida

Buying a Car From a Private Seller In Florida

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

Quick links:

What paperwork do I need to buy a used car in Florida?

What fees are there when buying a used car in Florida?

How to acquire new license plates in Florida?

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

You want to get the best used car for your budget, and it’s also important to stay safe and secure. This article will help you navigate the Florida car-buying process.

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

Image highlighting Financing by PrivateAuto

What is the Process of Buying a Used Car in Florida?

To buy a used car in Florida, you will need to go through the following sequence.

  1. Find a seller who has the vehicle you want
  2. Negotiate a price you both can agree on
  3. Meet up for a test drive to make sure the vehicle is up to par
  4. Handle paperwork
  5. Pay the seller
  6. Have the seller sign over the title
  7. Register the car in your name and pay sales taxes and fees
  8. Get new license plates

Let’s look at the process in more detail.

Find a Used Car to Buy

Go shopping for used cars. Whether you’re looking for a cheap car or a barely-used luxury vehicle, you’re better off purchasing from private sellers than from a Florida 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 in Florida, and we have security and convenience features that none of our competitors have. For example, all sellers have their identity verified, so you know who you’re dealing with. You can browse used car listings and make offers within the app, and when a seller accepts your offer, you can proceed to scheduling the test drive. It all happens within the app and you never have to give out your personal info.

Take a Test Drive

When you find the perfect used car for sale near you, and agree with the seller on a purchase price, it’s time to take the car for a test drive.

Secure Meetup Scheduling

Other used car marketplaces leave you to arrange a meetup with the seller by exchanging personal info and having a lot of back-and-forth. With PrivateAuto, your personal info is kept private. Our handy in-app scheduler allows the two of you to arrange the perfect time and place.

Vehicle History

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

AutoCheck now partners with PrivateAuto to provide buyers with a motor vehicle information check and report. When PrivateAuto sellers opt for a Premium listing, we include the vehicle history report for your peace of mind.

Mechanical Inspection

Before buying the car, you may want to conduct a mechanical inspection on it. This is at your discretion, and is more advisable for higher-mileage vehicles. Depending on your level of mechanical savvy, you can inspect it yourself at the time of the test drive. Or, you can coordinate with the seller to have it inspected by a qualified mechanic.

PrivateAuto gives you the tools and technology to close the deal at the test drive meeting. If you’re opting for a professional 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 documents involved in a used car transaction.

Vehicle Title

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

Odometer Statement

When you buy a car 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.

Complete the Federal Odometer Disclosure Statement if there’s no room on the title.

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 proceeding to the next step.

Bill of Sale

Some states require buyer and seller to complete a bill of sale when doing a private party vehicle transaction. In Florida, the bill of sale is optional. We highly recommend car buyers insist on a bill of sale, as it provides legal protection in case a seller ever tries to renege on a deal.

PrivateAuto includes a 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.

VIN Verification

As a buyer, check the vehicle identification number that the seller has written on the title. Compare it carefully to the actual VIN on the vehicle. You want to avoid the problem of having an incorrect VIN on the title when you go to register your newly-bought car with the State of Florida.

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

Send Payment

It’s time for you to pay the seller for the car. There aren’t a lot of good ways to send payment in a private vehicle transaction—until PrivateAuto arrived on the scene.

Introducing PrivateAuto Pay

Our integrated banking gateway, PrivateAuto Pay, allows you to instantaneously send any amount. The seller will get the funds instantaneously, whether after hours, on weekends, or during a holiday. We charge no payment processing fee. It’s truly revolutionary.

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

In-App Financing

Oh, and if you didn't want to pay out-of-pocket for your next car, you can apply for vehicle financing 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 car payment calculator will tell you.

Transfer the Title

The key component of the entire transaction is transferring a Florida car title from seller to buyer. When 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 Florida 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.

When Multiple Owners are Listed on the Title

If there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign the document in order for the transfer of title to be legitimate.

Should You Conduct Title Research?

Prior to meeting with the seller, it’s always a good idea to do some preliminary research on the vehicle title.

Any Florida attorney will recommend using the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title of a potential used car purchase to protect yourself from fraud. It’s rare, but sometimes sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive. For example, they may try to pass off a salvage title as a clean title.

Good title research will help you check for:

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

Finalize with FLHSMV

The seller is out of the picture and you own the vehicle. Now you need to finalize the process with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV—essentially the Florida DMV). You’ll need to complete the following at a FLHSMV motor vehicle service center or online:

  1. Finalizing the transfer of title with the State of Florida.
  2. Registering the vehicle in your name and getting new registration tabs
  3. Paying taxes and fees
  4. Getting new license plates

Complete Title Transfer with FLHSMV

After buying a used car in Florida 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 FLHSMV along with the required documentation and payment.

What is Required to Complete a Title Transfer with FLHSMV?
  • Proof of identity (valid Florida driver’s license or another acceptable Florida photo ID)
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of required auto insurance coverage
  • Completed Application for Certificate of Title
  • Paid registration fees and applicable sales taxes
  • A filled-out title certificate application
  • $75.25 title transfer fee

Submit title transfer documentation within 30 days of purchase to avoid penalty fees.

Even though the seller has already transferred the title to you, Florida requires you to do this step to transfer the title into your name in the FLHSMV system.

Online FLHSMV Title Transfer

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers online services. Your title can be requested online for an additional fee of $2.50. The title is mailed to your address within 10 days.

License Plates and Registration

Different states have different rules for license plates in a private car sale. Some states allow the plates to remain with the vehicle and pass to the buyer. Unfortunately, Florida is not one of those states.  When you buy a used car in Florida from a private owner, Florida law mandates that the seller must remove the license plate from the vehicle.

As the buyer, you will apply for new license plates from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles at the same time you register the vehicle in your name.

Florida charges a registration fee of $225 that includes the cost of new plates. The initial vehicle registration must be done in person at your local FLHSMV office.

You will need to submit the following:

  • Proof of insurance—usually in the form of an online document or insurance card
  • Proof of identity
  • A completed HSMV 82040 form
  • Payment of $225
  • A filled-out vehicle title with your name, and signature of both you and the seller

What Fees Are There When Buying A Used Car In Florida?

The vehicle purchase price never includes the used car sales tax, registration, and title transfer fees.

Here are additional fees you'll pay beyond the purchase price when buying a used car in Florida:

  • Title fee: $75.75
  • Plate transfer fee: $7.85
  • Florida sales tax: 6% on the purchase price of the vehicle
  • Registration and new plates: $225

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

How Do You Drive a Newly-Bought Used Car in Florida?

If you have recently bought a used car in Florida, you can get temporary plates (technically known as a temporary tag) that allows you to drive for up to 30 days without an official license plate. If you’ve applied for new plates promptly, this should be plenty of time for them to have arrived.

PrivateAuto Makes it Easy to Buy a Used Car in Florida

PrivateAuto Makes it Easy to Buy a Used Car in Florida

PrivateAuto makes buying a used car hassle-free. Whether you’re looking for a Dodge Challenger, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover, or Tesla Model S, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride of your dreams.

We are the only end-to-end car 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 Florida.

The PrivateAuto purchasing process consists of a few simple steps:

Register on PrivateAuto and get verified

To make PrivateAuto a safe place for everyone, we require email, phone, and driver’s license verification, including facial recognition.

Get started here.

Browse 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

Make offers on vehicles 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.)

E-sign documents

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 instantly

Before PrivateAuto, receiving funds was the most stressful part of the entire purchasing process, especially for any used car purchase 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 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!

Florida Car Buying FAQ

How to protect yourself when buying a car privately?

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

  1. Don’t 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 buying a car privately for cash a good idea?

Buying a car in south Florida 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.

What is a VIN number?

VIN stands for a vehicle identification number. It is an identifying code for a specific car. It serves as a car fingerprint—no two cars have the same VIN. It is composed of 17 characters.

How long is the lemon law in Florida?

In Florida, the lemon law is 24 months. Note that the lemon law specifically applies to dealerships, not to private owners selling their used vehicles.

Who pays for the title transfer fee in Florida?

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

What kind of insurance does a 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.

What is a temporary tag?

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


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