How to Buy a Used Car From a Private Seller In Delaware

When purchasing a used car from a private seller, there are plenty of things to keep track of. From getting new plates to understanding Delaware's title transfer process, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to buy a private-party car in the First State.
The private-party vehicle market is riddled with scams and fraudsters, and private transactions can be intimidating.

PrivateAuto streamlines the private car buying process and makes it safe and easy. From encrypted messaging to instantaneous payments, we are the only transactional marketplace for private-party used vehicles.

Step 1: Browse Used Vehicles Online

Whether you are searching for a work truck, a classic car, a minivan, or a special edition Nissan GTR, you’ll probably want to shop online. There are lots of car-buying websites with used vehicles for sale by owner:

Online classifieds
National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Local classifieds such as KSL Cars.
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.
Social media listings.
Auction websites such as Cars and Bids and Hemmings.

While these platforms help you find used cars near you, all of them lack the same thing—transactional capability. They leave you to your own devices when it comes down to closing the deal, so we like to call them "meetingplaces".

Another downside to most of these websites is that they mix dealer inventory with private-party cars. Most of them don’t have a simple way to filter by private-party vehicles, so you’re left digging through hundreds of dealer listings to find the private offerings.

We’re the world's only fully self-service tech-enabled solution for every stage of the deal.

We have nothing against other listing sites. If you find your car on one of them, we’re happy for you. But we still want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

That’s why we developed DealNow. It allows you to start a deal on any site, and finish it on PrivateAuto.

Invite the seller to DealNow and fast-track your transaction.
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Step 2: Negotiate a Price

You want to get the very best car you can afford. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on vehicles 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.

Step 3: Vehicle Research

It’s smart to do some preliminary research on the car you’re about to spend thousands on. A vehicle history report can help you avoid buying a faulty car.

We have partnered with AutoCheck to provide vehicle history reports on premium listings. AutoCheck gets its data from the following sources:

Salvage auctions.
Collision repair shops.
Service records from maintenance facilities.
OEM manufacturers.
Car dealerships and extended warranty companies.
Auto auctions.
State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs).
Insurance companies.
Vehicle inspection and state inspection stations.
Import and export companies.
Rental and fleet companies.

Running an AutoCheck on a vehicle uncovers valuable insights into the car's background.

Regular maintenance (or lack thereof).
Title history: salvage titles, junk titles, flood damage, hail damage, storm damage, fire damage, and more.
Lien information, ownership transfers.
Manufacturer buybacks or lemon titles.
Collision repair history.
Structural or frame damage.
Service, repair, and maintenance performed.
Total loss and reason for the loss.
Stolen cars.
Major repairs.
Open recalls.
City and state of previous registration, number of owners.
Accidents and damage reports, stolen vehicles.
Rental, taxi, lease, or government use.
Emissions records.
Odometer rollback.
And lots more…

Step 4: Go for a Test Drive

Once you’ve found your car and settled on a price, it's time to take it for a spin. Other marketplaces force you to exchange personal info with the seller and have an awkward back-and-forth conversation about scheduling. Your privacy is compromised, and you waste a lot of time.

We keep your info secure. All communication happens through our secure messaging system. The in-app scheduler makes it easy to schedule the meetup: just select from the seller’s available times and show up at their designated location.

Step 5: Vehicle Inspection

Before you say yes to the car, you should inspect it. Even better, arrange a professional pre-purchase inspection.

You can order a pre-purchase inspection in your PrivateAuto service hub and a Lemon Squad inspector will come to your location.

Here are some of the things your Lemon Squad inspector will examine. Or, if you're attempting to perform your own inspection, here's what to look at:

Undercarriage: inspect the car for leaks, rust, and damage. Look at brake lines, exhaust, and suspension components.
Tires: examine tire treads and make sure there is sufficient tread depth. Also look for any cracks, bulges, or other tire damage. Check the spare as well.
Body: check for obvious damage, body panel alignment, uneven gaps, mismatched paint, and signs of damage repair. Look closely for any indications of collision repair. Check for rust underneath and around body panels. Check headlights, brake lights, and other lights.
Fluids: check all fluid levels, including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. Look for leaks and make sure the fluids look clean and at proper levels.
Interior: ensure all controls, electronics, air conditioning, and heating work properly. Look for any warning lights on the dash when the car is started. Check for water damage, stains, or tears inside.
Test drive: drive the car under different conditions to test acceleration, braking, steering, and transmission, and to feel and listen for any mechanical issues.
Maintenance records: review the vehicle history report and check maintenance logs to understand repair and ownership history.

Step 6: Sign a Delaware Bill of Sale

Delaware requires a bill of sale in private sales. The bill of sale is a legal document that protects both buyer and seller by memorializing the terms of the sale.

Here are the necessary elements in a bill of sale:

The make, model, and year of the car.
Date of the transaction.
Price of the car.
Your full name and signature.
The other party’s full name and signature.
A warranty disclaimer stating the car is being sold as-is.

PrivateAuto provides an official Delaware bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the appropriate stage of the transaction workflow, the buyer and seller will be asked to sign the Delaware bill of sale electronically in the PrivateAuto app.

Step 7: Pay for the Car

Now is the time to pay the seller. Existing payment methods are inconvenient, risky, or expensive. That’s why we created PrivateAuto Pay.

You can send unlimited funds with no transfer fees. Nights, weekends, national holidays—anytime. The seller will receive the money immediately. It’s secure, easy to use, and convenient. Its instantaneous nature provides escrow-like safeguards for you to control the deal.

Oh, and if you can’t pay cash for your next vehicle we got you—-you can apply for a used car loan within the PrivateAuto app. When your application is approved, your profile will show that you have verified funds, which will set you apart from other buyers.

Our lending partner will pay the seller in full when you close the deal and send payment. You will make monthly car payments to the lender. It's that simple.

Curious how much your payments will be? Our handy car loan calculator can tell you.

Step 8: Sign the Delaware Vehicle Title

After you’ve paid for the car, you and the seller will fill out and sign the certificate of title, and the seller will leave it to you. This is the crowning step that makes you the official owner of the car.

Both parties need to fill out the title certificate thoroughly. The following info is required:

Full names.
Damage disclosure statement.
An odometer disclosure statement (in many states).

Odometer Disclosure

Federal law requires the seller to complete the odometer reading statement (also known as an odometer disclosure). In many states, the title includes an odometer disclosure. For other states, an additional odometer disclosure statement is required as a separate document.

If in doubt, you could always complete the Federal Odometer Disclosure Statement to make sure your bases are covered.

Inspect the odometer to verify that the seller’s entry is correct. Keep in mind that sellers who tamper with a car's odometer to obtain a false reading can face serious consequences.

Our app has a field for the odometer reading so that both the buyer and the seller can check the mileage before moving forward.

Vehicle Identification Number Check

Always verify the vehicle identification number to compare it to that written on the title. You want to avoid having the wrong VIN on the car title, as this will cause all sorts of grief later on.

The PrivateAuto app has a field for the VIN, where both the buyer and seller can check it for accuracy. This helps to eliminate errors (or the rare case of outright seller fraud).

Step 9: Get Car Insurance

Before driving your new-to-you vehicle home, you’ll want to have it covered under an insurance policy. Most states require liability insurance at a minimum; it’s up to you whether to get more coverage.

PrivateAuto makes it easy to compare rates and get auto insurance right in our app.
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Step 10: Finalize with the Delaware Division Of Motor Vehicles

You technically own the car at this point, but the Delaware DMV needs to be aware of that. It’s time to register the car in your name, transfer the title in the state records, and get a new license plate.

The DMV will require the following:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner.
A completed certificate of title application (Form MV-212)
Payment for Delaware’s vehicle title transfer fee: $35.
Payment for Delaware passenger vehicle registration fee: $40.
Payment for Delaware motor vehicle document fee: 4.25% of the vehicle purchase price
Valid ID, driver's license, or other proof of identity.
Lien information (if there is a lien holder on the title).
Proof of insurance.
Proof of emissions testing
Completed odometer disclosure statement (if applicable)

License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Delaware requires the seller to remove the plate from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the DMV for a new Delaware license plate (the cost of a standard plate is included in vehicle registration).

Emissions Inspection

If you are registering a vehicle in New Castle, Kent, or Sussex you will have to undergo vehicle emissions testing. Vehicles that are less than 6 years old and under 10,000 pounds are exempt from inspections.

Delaware Vehicle FAQ

Does Delaware have sales taxes?

While Delaware does not charge an outright sales tax, the state charges a 4.25% "motor vehicle document fee" on most used vehicle purchases, including private party sales.

So while Delaware can technically boast having "no sales tax," the DMV's mandatory document fee amounts to a sales tax by another name.

How much is a temporary tag in Delaware?

How much does registration renewal cost in Delaware?

How to request a duplicate Delaware vehicle title?