Can I Buy a Car for Someone Else?

If you’re buying a quality used car for a friend or family member, you’re a generous soul. The process of buying a private-party car for someone else has a few nuances to be aware of.
We’ll show you some pretty cool tools to help you get the deal done much faster and more conveniently than you’ve ever thought possible.

Dealership vs Private-Party Car?

We recommend you buy a private-party car instead of a dealership car. You get so much more value when you cut out the middleman and their associated markups and fees.

Let’s assume you’re buying private-party, since you’re smart.
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Cash or Financed Purchase?

If you’re financing a vehicle purchase for someone else, you’re better off co-signing on their loan. Otherwise, you end up with a logistical nightmare. If you go this route, you’re not technically buying the car for them. It’s more like you’re putting your credit on the line for them. You and the car’s owner (the person you’re buying the car for) can decide which of you makes the monthly payment—or whether you go in on it together.

For purposes of this article, let’s say you’re paying cash upfront for the car and then giving it to another person, whom we’ll call “the recipient.”

2 Ways You Can Structure the Deal

If you’re buying a car for a family member or friend, there are two different approaches you can take:

1. Do the deal on your own, then gift the car to the recipient after you own it.
2. Do the deal with the recipient involved in the process. You’re never the owner, but you’re the one paying for the car.

Option 2 is the least friction for you. We’ll explain how to do it. If you want to go with Option 1, you can extrapolate how the following instructions apply.

Test Drive the Car

You and the recipient will want to test drive the car. PrivateAuto makes it easy. Here’s how our handy scheduler works:

1. You choose from the available time slots the seller has specified.
2. You show up and meet the seller at the location they have specified.
3. The recipient drives the car.
4. If you’d like, you can schedule a pre-purchase inspection right from the PrivateAuto app. The inspector can meet you at the test drive location and give the car a good look-over.

If you or the recipient have questions about the car, you can ask through our in-app messenger and the seller can respond. Meanwhile, everyone’s personal information is protected.

Sign the Bill of Sale

The bill of sale is a legal document that protects you, the recipient, and the seller by memorializing the terms of the sale. Some states require it, while other states don’t. We think you should always complete a bill of sale, which is why we make it a standard part of our transaction workflow.

After you’ve inspected the car and indicated your acceptance of its condition in your PrivateAuto dashboard, you and the seller will each be prompted to sign the bill of sale electronically.

We provide an official bill of sale for your state, and the mutual signing of it establishes the legal obligation of the seller to follow through with the transaction—meaning you’re safe to initiate payment. You and the seller each retain a signed copy of the bill of sale in your respective PrivateAuto accounts

Pay for the Car

There's only one safe, convenient, and instantaneous way to pay for a car: PrivateAuto Pay. It works instantly anytime—on nights, weekends, or holidays. It never sleeps. It’s Venmo, without the $5K limit. You can send any amount, with no transfer fees.

Other payment methods—checks, bank wires, etc—are inconvenient and have slow processing times. Skip all that hassle, and get the deal done on the spot. PrivateAuto Pay’s escrow-like safeguards give you control over the deal.

Here’s how easy it is:

1. After both parties have signed the bill of sale, you’ll be notified to release payment.
2. You approve the funds transfer from your PrivateAuto Pay account to the seller’s.
3. The seller immediately gets a notification of funds received.
4. On to the rest of the transaction.

Seriously, there’s no other instant, free, and safe way to send a large amount of money for a car. After using PrivateAuto Pay, you’ll never want to buy a car without it.

Get the Signed Title

Now that the seller has been paid for the car, it’s time for them to sign over the vehicle's title. Since you’re not buying the car for yourself, have the seller sign it to the recipient.

During this step, carefully review the info on the title. Make sure the following details on the title are filled out and accurate (different states have different fields on their vehicle title, but the following are fairly common):

The seller’s name and address
The recipient’s name and address
The vehicle’s mileage
The vehicle’s VIN
The sales price (how much you’re paying for the vehicle)
The vehicle’s condition

Once the seller has properly signed over the title, they will hand you the keys, marking the successful completion of the ownership transfer. At this point, the car officially belongs to the recipient and the two of you can drive it away from the meetup location.

Finish at the DMV

Now that the recipient is the official owner of the car, they need to finish up with the state. If you’re feeling generous, go with them to help them complete state paperwork and other procedural necessities.

The two of you will go to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency to complete the following:

Register the vehicle in the new owner’s name and pay the associated registration fee.
Pay vehicle sales tax, unless you live in a tax-exempt state.
Transfer the vehicle’s title in the state records. Some states charge a fee for this; others include it in the registration fee.
Get new license plates, unless you live in California or Minnesota.

During this process, the recipient will need to present the signed title from the previous owner, as well as proof of insurance and any other required documents or fees specified by your state.

Most states have a timeframe within which you must finalize the title transfer and register a newly acquired vehicle. Failing to do so could result in fines or penalties.
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Where is the Best Place to Buy a Used Car Online?

There are lots of websites that have cars for sale, but only one that…

1. Has the most cars for sale by owner, with no dealership inventory to sort through
2. Gives you tools for every step of the deal
3. Gives you an easy, safe way to send unlimited payments instantly with no transfer fees
4. Has tons of extra services integrated (no coordination needed with third-party vendors), from insurance to car transport to inspections and much more

Not only is PrivateAuto the best website to buy a car, but we’re also the only automotive transactional marketplace, meaning that we offer technology solutions for every stage of the deal.

Shop used cars for sale by owner to see how easy it can be.

Oh, and if you happen to find your dream car on another site, you can still use PrivateAuto Pay to buy it. Our DealNow bridge product allows you to start a transaction anywhere, and finish it on PrivateAuto. Learn more about DealNow.

Car Purchase FAQ

Can someone buy a car on my behalf?

If you have someone willing to buy a car on your behalf, they can follow the process outlined in this article to do so. PrivateAuto makes it easy. They’ll use PrivateAuto to close the deal, then have the seller sign the car title over to you.

Alternatively, they can have the seller sign the title to them, then later gift the car to you. Depending on your state’s gifting laws, this option may be more complicated.

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