How to Buy a Used Car From a Private Seller In Minnesota?

When purchasing a used car from a private seller, there are plenty of things to keep track of. We’ll guide you through everything you need to know to buy a private-party car in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. From Minnesota's title transfer process to sending payment to getting new license plates, here’s what you need to do.
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 Ford F-150, 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 transactional capabilities. Because they leave you to your own devices when it comes down to closing the deal, we call them "meetingplaces".

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

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

That’s why we created 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.
Image highlighting Buying/Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Step 2: Car Research

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

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

Collision repair shops.
Service records from maintenance facilities.
OEM manufacturers.
Salvage auctions.
Car dealerships and extended warranty companies.
Auto auctions.
State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs).
Import and export companies
Insurance companies.
Vehicle inspection and state inspection stations.
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 3: Take the Car 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 4: Vehicle Inspection

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

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 a good inspection will cover:

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.
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.
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.
Maintenance records: review the vehicle history report and check maintenance logs to understand repair and ownership history.
Test drive: drive the car under different conditions to test acceleration, braking, steering, and transmission, and to feel and listen for any mechanical issues.

Step 5: Sign a Minnesota Bill of Sale

In the state of Minnesota, a bill of sale is not required in private vehicle purchases. It’s still a good idea to have one: 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:

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

We provide an official Minnesota 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 Minnesota bill of sale electronically in the PrivateAuto app.

Step 6: Pay for the Car

Now is the time to pay the seller. Existing payment methods are inconvenient, risky, or expensive (or a combination of all three). That’s why we developed PrivateAuto Pay.

You can send unlimited funds with no transfer fees. Nights, weekends, 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 your back—-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.

Step 7: Sign the Official Title

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

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

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.

You can 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.

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

VIN Check

Always verify the VIN 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 8: Get Auto Insurance

Before driving the 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 car insurance right in our app.

Step 9: Finalize with Minnesota DVS

You technically own the car at this point, but the Minnesota DVS needs to know that. It’s time to register the car in your name, transfer the title in the state records, and get new license plates.

They will require the following:

Valid driver's license.
The vehicle title signed by the previous vehicle owner.
Completed Application To Title/Reg. A Vehicle.
Proof of insurance.
Payment for the title transfer fee: $8.25.
Payment for the filing fee: $11.
Payment for the vehicle transfer tax: $10.
Payment for the public safety vehicle fee: $3.50.
Payment for the security interest assignment: $1.
Payment for the passenger vehicle registration fee: depends on the vehicle's base value and age.
Payment for the wheelage tax: $10 to $20 (if applicable).
Payment for Minnesota car sales tax (6.875% of the car’s purchase price).
Potentially other taxes and fees, depending on your city and county of residence.
Image highlighting Buying Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Minnesota License Plates

Unlike most other states, Minnesota mandates that license plates remain with the vehicle and pass on to the buyer. As the buyer, you won’t need to purchase new license plates.

See our state-by-state guide to license plate requirements if you’re thinking about buying or selling a car in another state.

Minnesota Vehicle FAQ

How much is the sales tax on a used car in Minnesota?

The statewide rate for used car sales tax in the state of Minnesota is 6.875% of the vehicle’s purchase price or the fair market value. Some Minnesota counties and cities charge their own sales tax, which is added to the state’s 6.875%.

Do lemon law protections apply to used cars in MN?

How to request a duplicate Minnesota vehicle title?