Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Arizona

You're smart if you're purchasing a used car from a private seller. You can get a better deal when you skip the dealership and go directly to the original owner. But there are a few things you'll need to know about the process in the state of Arizona.
When you buy your next car from a private seller, there are a few more steps to navigate. Fortunately, PrivateAuto makes the process much easier. Read on to learn the steps you’ll need to take.

Should I Buy From a Private Seller or a Dealer?

Car dealerships have traditionally been more convenient, whereas private sellers usually offer better value.

Here at PrivateAuto, we’re big fans of the private seller route. Here are the advantages:

Avoid fees. Dealers charge crazy documentation fees that range from $50 to over $1,000.
Get a better price by cutting out the middleman and going right to the source. Dealers need to buy low and sell high to make a spread and keep the lights on. You don’t need to help out with that.
You drive the deal on your terms: PrivateAuto allows you to make offers and negotiate the best deal directly with the seller.
In some states, buying from a private seller means no sales tax. For example, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada charge sales tax on retail (dealership) car purchases, but not on private-party ones.

We help you complete a private-party transaction as easily as you could buy a used car from a dealership. See how it works.
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Steps to Buying a Used Car in Arizona

When you buy a private-party used vehicle in Arizona, you’ll go through the following sequence:

1. Find a car to buy
2. Take the car for a test drive
3. Handle paperwork
4. Pay the seller
5. Transfer ownership
6. Register the car
7. Get a new license plate

Let’s go over the process in more detail.

Find the Right Car at the Right Price

Obviously, the first thing to do is find a car to buy. For most people, this means going online and shopping for cars on any of the many sites that feature used cars for sale.

Begin Your Search

When it comes to finding a car to buy online, here are your options:

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

While such sites can be great resources to find that Honda Civic you’re looking for, they fall short when it comes time to do the transaction. That’s why we call them “meetingplaces” instead of true marketplaces.

PrivateAuto is a transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology to enable every aspect of the deal. If you’d like to see how easy the private-party purchase can be, shop used cars for sale to start the process.

Even though we’re the best place to buy a car online, we don't hate the meetingplaces. In fact, some have a lot more used car inventory than we do (we’re still growing).

If you choose to buy a car from another site, we want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy. That’s why we made DealNow. DealNow allows you to create your own dealroom on the PrivateAuto platform, invite the owner of the car you want to get, and fast-track the transaction. Start anywhere, finish on PrivateAuto. 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 like. You never know if the vehicle’s owner will accept less than their asking price until you try.

On other sites, you’d have to message the seller and have an awkward conversation. PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or counteroffer.

Research the Car

A savvy buyer will try to find out as much as they can about the car they’re getting. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are a vehicle history report and research on the car’s title.

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 shows you how well the seller cared for their car.

We provide a vehicle history report for all premium listings.

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

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

A vehicle history report can help you steer clear of buying a bad used car and help steer you away from car-buying scams.

Research the 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 of a vehicle to protect yourself from fraud.

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:

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

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN) in advance of meeting up. Run the title check, and have one less thing to worry about.

Go For a Test Drive

Unless you’re buying a car remotely, you want to test drive it yourself. PrivateAuto lets you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that never reveals your personal information to the seller.

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 helps weed out spoiled eggs who prefer to operate in the shadows.

Complete Arizona Paperwork

Paperwork is a critical part of the transaction process.

Here is the paperwork involved in an Arizona used car transaction:

1. Title
2. Bill of sale
3. Emissions testing

Arizona Title Certificate

You and the seller need to fill out the official Arizona Certificate of Title. An Arizona title will require you and the seller to complete the following information at the time of the sale:

Odometer disclosure
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)
Date of sale
Purchase price
Your hand-printed name and signature

Arizona Bill of Sale

Arizona requires a bill of sale. It protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the VIN, the selling 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.

We make it easy with an official Arizona bill of sale in our app. 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.

Arizona Emissions Testing

Emissions testing is required in Tucson and Phoenix.

Emission testing is performed during the registration period at licensed inspection stations or mechanic shops. The emissions test can cost up to $25 depending on the model age of your vehicle.

If you fall under these categories, you are exempt from emissions testing:

Vehicles that are not older than five model years
Vehicles with model years older than 1966
Fully electric vehicles

Make the Payment

When it comes time to pay the seller, there aren’t a lot of great options—until we arrived on the scene. 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. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around banker’s hours.
4. No exchange of contact or banking info.
5. Act as your own escrow service with our secure dealflow.

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 DealNow to enjoy all the same benefits.
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Arizona Title and Registration

After the seller signs the title over to you, you’ll visit the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) office to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name and get a new license plate.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you visit the MVD office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
A completed application for a certificate of title
Bill of sale
Lien information (if applicable)
Proof of emissions testing
Payment for Arizona’s vehicle title transfer fee: $4
Payment for Arizona registration fee: $8
Payment for the Vehicle License Tax
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

For more info, read our complete guide to an Arizona title transfer.

Arizona Vehicle FAQ

Does Arizona have vehicle sales tax?

Arizona doesn’t charge sales tax on private-party car sales. Only on dealership cars—one more reason to buy from a private seller. The state charges an annual "Vehicle License Tax" (VLT).

Read our complete guide to Arizona sales tax, for more info.

Does Arizona offer digital license plates?

How much is the registration late fee in Arizona?

What is the 3-day permit used for in Arizona?

What is the tax rate in Mohave County?

How many miles should you buy on a used car?

What if I want to sell my car in Arizona?