Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Michigan

If you’re looking to buy a private-party used car in Michigan, you’re smart. Dealers charge fees and markups, which you can avoid when buying directly from a private party seller.
Read on to what you need to do to buy a used car from a private seller in Michigan—and how PrivateAuto makes the entire process safe and easy.
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Is Buying from a Dealer Better than Buying from a Private Seller?

Dealerships offer convenience, while private sales offer better value.

We’re big fans of going the private seller route.

1. Get a better price by cutting out the middleman and going to the source. Dealers buy low and sell high to make a spread 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 a private owner.
4. In some states, buying from a private seller means no vehicle sales tax. For example, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada charge sales taxes on retail (dealership) auto purchases, but not private-party ones.

We think you should be able to complete a private-party transaction as easily as you could buy a used car from a dealer. Our tech-enabled solutions make this a reality.

Find a Car

You want to find the best car for your budget. Based on your price range, vehicle requirements, and other factors, you probably have a good idea of what you’re looking for. It’s time to find it.

Here are your options for finding the best private-party used car for you:

Social media listings.
Vehicle listing sites such as Cargurus.
Online classifieds
a. Local classifieds.
b. National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Auction websites such as Bring a Trailer and eBay Motors.

Although these can be great places to find your dream, Alfa Romeo, they fall short when it comes time for the transaction. That’s why we call them “meetingplaces” instead of true marketplaces.

PrivateAuto is the only transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the deal. If you’d like to see how easy buying privately can be, browse our used cars for sale and get the car-buying process started.

Even though PrivateAuto is the best car-buying app, we don’t hate other listing sites. Some of them have more private-party car inventory than we do (we’re still growing). We just want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

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.

Get your deal started now!

Negotiate the Price

You want to get the very best vehicle for your budget. Other sites don't make negotiation easy. You can either accept the listed price or move on.

PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or counteroffer. No awkward messaging back and forth.

Do Some Research on the Car

It's always a good idea to do some preliminary due diligence on the car you're getting about the car you’re getting.

The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are:

1. Get a vehicle history report.
2. Do car title research.

Get a Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report covers ownership history and maintenance records and shows how well the seller cared for their vehicle.

PrivateAuto includes a vehicle history report for all premium listings.

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

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

Research the Title

Before going for the test drive, it’s always good 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.

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive. For instance, they may try to pass off a salvage title as a clean title.

Go for a Test Drive

Unless you’re buying a car remotely, you’re going to want to test-drive it yourself. We let you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that protects your personal information.

1. Our in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen. No awkward back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can choose to transact with verified sellers, which helps to weed out scammers and crooks who want to conceal their identity.

You’ll schedule a test drive in seconds without ever needing to contact the seller. Then, you show up and get the deal done.


You’ve test-driven the car and you’re ready to buy. It’s time to handle the documentation. Here are the key documents involved in a private-party vehicle transaction in the state of Michigan.

1. Certificate of title
2. Bill of sale
3. Vehicle identification number inspection

Michigan Title Certificate

A Michigan certificate of title will require both 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, all sellers will need to sign)
Date of sale
Purchase price
Your hand-printed name and signature

Michigan Bill of Sale

While Michigan doesn't require a bill of sale, we recommend you always complete one with the seller. A bill of sale protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the vehicle identification number (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.

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

Do a VIN Check

When buying a used car in Michigan, you need to check the VIN that the seller has written on the title.

Carefully compare it to the actual VIN on the car. You want to avoid the problem of having the wrong VIN on the title when you go to register your newly bought car at the Secretary of State's office.

The PrivateAuto app has a VIN field where buyers and sellers individually confirm the VIN. This helps eliminate errors (or the rare case of outright seller fraud).

Make the Payment

There weren't many great options to pay for a car beforePrivateAuto. 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 PrivateAuto Pay. Here’s how it works:

1. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
2. No transfer fees.
3. No exchange of contact or banking info.
4. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around bank hours.
5. Enjoy escrow-like safeguards without the expense and hassle of an actual escrow service.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way.
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Michigan Title Transfer and Registration

After the seller signs the title over, you’ll go to the Michigan Secretary of State office (SOS) to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get a license plate, and pay the Michigan vehicle sales tax.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you visit your local SOS office:

A completed vehicle title application
Lien information (if there is a lien holder on the title)
Payment for the Michigan sales tax: 6% of the purchase price
Payment for Michigan’s vehicle title transfer fee: $15
Payment for Michigan registration fees: based on the age and weight of the vehicle
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to a Michigan title transfer for more info on the subject.

Michigan Car FAQ

How much does it cost to register a car in Michigan from out-of-state?

The cost of registering a car in Michigan from another state is based on the vehicle's age, weight, and value. Here are some fees that may apply:

1. Title fee: $15
2. Registration fee: depending on the age of the vehicle
3. Sales tax

If you're planning on purchasing a car out of state, PrivateAuto Pay allows you to have escrow-like services in the palm of your hand and get the deal done quickly and easily.

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