Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Alabama

Avoid dealer fees and get a better bargain when you buy your next vehicle from a private seller. Here's what you need to know to navigate the process in Alabama.
PrivateAuto streamlines the private vehicle buying experience and makes it enjoyable and safe. Keep reading to see how to buy your dream vehicle in Alabama, and how we make what could be an intimidating task easy and safe.

Should I Buy from a Dealer or a Private Seller?

When considering whether to purchase from a dealer or a private seller, the traditional view is that dealerships offer convenience, while private sellers provide better value.

At PrivateAuto, we strongly advocate for the private seller option due to several advantages:

1. Get a better price by cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source. Dealers must buy low and sell high to make a profit and keep the lights on.
2. Avoid fees. Car dealers charge documentation fees that range from $50 to over $1,000.
3. You drive the deal on your terms. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers and negotiate the best deal directly with the seller.

While it’s true that dealerships traditionally offer more convenience, we’re all about making the private-party car buying experience frictionless and safe. Our transactional marketplace gives you all the tools to drive the deal on your terms, including instant payments of up to $1 million with no fees.
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Find a Car that Fits Your Budget

You’re probably looking for private-party used cars online, which means you’ll be using one of the many sites that list cars for sale. You probably have some idea of what type of car you’re looking for and what you can afford; if not, take some time to narrow that down. Then, it’s time to start your search.

Search for Cars Online

For most people, the best way to find a vehicle for sale near them is by searching online. Here are your options for car-buying websites:

Auction websites such as eBay Motors and Bring a Trailer.
Social media listings (e.g., cars for sale on Facebook Marketplace).
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.
Online classifieds
Local classifieds like KSL Cars.
National classifieds such as OfferUp.

These websites can be great resources for finding your dream car, but they fall short when it comes to facilitating the transaction. That’s why we call them “meetingplaces” instead of marketplaces.

PrivateAuto is the only transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the private party used car purchasing process. If you’d like to see how easy it can be, shop our used vehicles for sale by owner and start the car buying journey.

While we are the best car-buying app, we don’t hate other listing sites. Many of them have more inventory than we do (we’re still getting traction). But we want you to enjoy security and convenience no matter where you shop. That’s why we created DealNow, a fast-track deal flow that allows you to start a deal on another platform and finish it with our transactional infrastructure that provides unparalleled security and convenience.

Get your deal started now!

Negotiate Price

You want to get the very best car for your budget. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on cars. You never know if the owner will accept less than their initial sale price until you try.

While other websites require you to message the seller and have an awkward exchange, PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or submit a counteroffer.

Research the Car

A savvy used car buyer will carry out their due diligence and get as much information about a vehicle’s history as possible before proceeding with a purchase. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are:

1. Research the car’s title
2. Get a vehicle history report

Research the Car Title

Before meeting up for the test drive, it’s smart to do preliminary research on the car title.
You can use the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title to protect yourself from car-buying fraud.

In some cases, a seller may try to pass off a salvage title as clean.

Title research will help you check for:

1. Reports of the car having been stolen.
2. An outstanding lien.
3. The car has been declared a total loss in an insurance claim.

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN) prior to meeting up. Run the title check, and avoid falling prey to one of those car-buying scams.

Get a Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is a smart idea when buying a used car. It covers ownership history and maintenance records and gives you insight into how well the seller cared for their car.

PrivateAuto provides a vehicle history report for all premium listings.

Here are some reasons a vehicle history report gives you peace of mind.

1. You have visibility into any accidents or insurance claims.
2. You know how well the car has been cared for.
3. You can see service records, major repairs, and other work.

A vehicle history report can help you steer clear of buying a faulty used car.

Schedule a Test Drive

PivateAuto lets you arrange the test drive safely, easily, and conveniently, without ever revealing your personal information to the seller. If you are looking to make a long-distance purchase, you can arrange a qualified vehicle inspector who is located in the seller’s area to act as your proxy for the test drive.

1. Our in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen—no back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can choose to transact with verified sellers only, which tends to help weed out those who prefer to operate in the shadows.

You’ll be able to schedule the test drive in a matter of minutes without ever needing to contact the seller. It’s just one of the many ways we streamline private car sales.

Complete Alabama Paperwork

Paperwork is a critical part of the transaction process. Here is the paperwork involved in an Alabama used car transaction:

1. Title
2. Bill of sale
3. Odometer disclosure
4. Emissions testing

Alabama Certificate of Title

You and the seller need to fill out the official Alabama certificate of title. An Alabama title will require both parties to provide the following information in the appropriate sections of the title:

Odometer disclosure
Date of sale
Vehicle purchase price
Seller’s hand-printed name, signature, and address (if there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign)
Your hand-printed name and signature

Odometer Disclosure

An Alabama vehicle title already contains an odometer disclosure section. However, vehicles that are less than 10 years old require an additional odometer disclosure document. To determine if you need any additional documentation, contact your local Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) office.

Our in-app workflow includes an odometer disclosure entry, where you and the seller confirm mileage before proceeding to the next step.

Alabama Bill of Sale

Alabama requires a bill of sale. It protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale and the VIN, as well as the sale price, mileage, and the names and signatures of both parties. If the seller ever wants to contest the transaction or any part of it, you have their signature on a legal document with all of the terms and details to back you up.

PrivateAuto makes it easy by providing an official Alabama bill of sale. You and the seller review the details, and then digitally sign the bill of sale after inspecting the car. No printing or scanning—simply sign electronically in the PrivateAuto mobile app. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Pay the Seller

When it comes time to pay the seller for their car, there aren’t a lot of great options—or haven’t been until now. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations associated with existing payment methods, so we created a solution. We call it PrivateAuto Pay. Our users call it magic. Here’s how it works:

1. No transfer fees.
2. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
3. No exchange of contact or banking info.
4. Advanced encryption protects your data from hackers.
5. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around banker’s hours.
6. Skip inconvenient and costly third-party escrow services when you take advantage of our escrow-like safeguards.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way. Oh, and if you’re buying a car on a different website, invite the seller to our DealNow fast-track solution to get the transaction done quickly, safely, and securely.
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Alabama Title Transfer and Registration

After the title is signed over to you, you’ll go to the Designated Agent of the Department office to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay your Alabama sales tax owed.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you transfer your car’s title at the County License Plate Issuing Officials office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
A completed title transfer application form
Valid ID, driver's license, or other proof of identity
Lien information (if there is a lien holder on the title)
Payment for Alabama’s vehicle title transfer fee: $15
Payment for Alabama registration fee: from $23 to $105
Payment for Alabama license plate fee: $23
Payment for the Alabama vehicle sales tax: 2% of the vehicle price
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to an Alabama title transfer for more info on the subject.

Alabama FAQ

Do you pay taxes on cars in Alabama?

Depending on where you live in Alabama, you could end up paying between 0.50% and 6.75% local sales tax on top of the state’s 2%.

See a complete list of all Alabama city and county sales tax rates on this official resource.

How much does it cost to renew registration in Alabama?

How much is the car property tax in Alabama?

How much does a tag cost in Alabama?

How can I register an out-of-state vehicle in Alabama?