Buying a Car From a Private Seller In Florida

When purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller, there are many things to keep track of. From getting new plates to understanding Florida's title transfer process, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to buy a private-party car in the Sunshine State.
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.

Should I Buy from a Dealership or a Private Seller?

A private-party deal gives you more car for your money, while dealerships offer “convenience”.

We're big fans of the private seller route for the following reasons:

1. You drive the deal on your terms. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers and negotiate the best deal directly with the seller.
2. 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. You don’t need to fund them.
3. Avoid pesky dealer fees. Car dealerships charge documentation fees that range from $50 to over $1,000.
4. Enjoy security and convenience when you do the deal with PrivateAuto. Our transactional marketplace gives dealer-like convenience in the palm of your hand. From scheduling the test drive to sending instant payments, you’ll love how easy the process is.
Image highlighting Buying/Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Florida Used Car-Buying Process

In Florida, you will go through the following steps when buying a used car from a private owner:

1. Find a car
2. Research the car
3. Arrange the test drive
4. Inspect the car
5. Sign the bill of sale
6. Pay the seller
7. Have the seller sign over the title
8. Insure the car
9. Register and title the car in your name
10. Pay sales taxes and fees
11. Get new plates

Let's go over these steps in more detail.

Find a Car

Whether you are searching for a classic vehicle, a work truck, or a minivan, you’ll probably want to shop online. There are so many car-buying sites with used vehicles for sale by owner:

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

While these online places help you find used cars near you, every single one of them lacks transactional capability. We call them "meetingplaces" because they leave you to your own devices when it comes down to closing the deal.

Another downside to many of these sites—they mix dealer inventory with private-party cars. 90% of them don’t have an easy way to filter by private-party vehicles, so you’re left scouring through hundreds of dealer listings to find the private offerings.

We’re the world’s first and only fully transactional marketplace, offering self-service technological solutions for every stage of the deal. And, we cater exclusively to private owners, with no dealer listings on our marketplace.

Start browsing for your dream car today!

We have nothing against other listing sites. But we still want every buyer to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

That’s why we created DealNow. DealNow allows you to create your own dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the owner of the car you want to buy, and fast-track the transaction.

Research the Car

It’s always advisable 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 lemon.

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

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

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

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

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.

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 to inspect:

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 various 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.

Sign a Florida Bill of Sale

Florida 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 Florida 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 Florida bill of sale electronically in the PrivateAuto app.

Pay for the Car

It's 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’ve got you—-you can apply for a used car loan directly 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.

Sign the Florida 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).

Get Car Insurance

Before driving your new-to-you car 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.

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 an 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 a new license plate

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
Proof of Florida 6% sales tax payment
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 private car sales. 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 which 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.
Image highlighting Buying Car Privately by PrivateAuto

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 allow 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.

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!

What is a VIN number?

How long is the lemon law in Florida?

Who pays for the title transfer fee in Florida?

What kind of insurance does a used car need?

What is a temporary tag?