Buying a Car from a Private Seller in New Jersey

Buying a private-party used car in New Jersey? Let's ensure you know how to get through the car-buying process successfully.
When you buy a vehicle from a private seller, there are important details to manage along the way. PrivateAuto streamlines private vehicle purchases with our smooth transactional process, including instant unlimited payments with no fees.

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.
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Step 1: Browse Used Vehicles Online

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 websitesplaces help you find used cars in your area, all of them lack transactional capability. We call them "meetingplaces" because they leave you to your own devices when it comes down to closing the deal.

Another major downside to most of these websites: they mix dealer inventory with private-party cars. Most of them don’t have an easy way to filter by private-party vehicles, so you’re left burrowing through a glut 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.

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 created DealNow. DealNow allows you to start a deal on any site, and finish it on PrivateAuto. Invite the seller to DealNow and fast-track your transaction.

Step 2: Negotiate a Price

You want to get the very best car for your budget. 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 advisable to do preliminary research on the car you’re about to spend thousands of dollars on. A vehicle history report can help you avoid buying a faulty vehicle.

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

Insurance companies.
Vehicle inspection and state inspection stations.
Import and export companies.
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 (RMVs).
Rental and fleet companies.

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

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

Step 4: Meet Up for the Test Drive

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

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

Step 5: Vehicle Inspection

Before buying the car, you should inspect it. Even better, arrange a professional pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic (especially if it’s a higher-mileage vehicle).

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.
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.
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.
Maintenance records: review the vehicle history report and check maintenance logs to understand repair and ownership history.
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.
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.
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 6: Sign a New Jersey Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is not required in New Jersey, but we recommend you always complete one with the seller. The bill of sale is a legal document that protects both of you by memorializing the terms of the sale.

Here are the necessary elements in a bill of sale:

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

PrivateAuto provides an official New Jersey 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 New Jersey 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 (or a combo of all three). That’s why we created PrivateAuto Pay.

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

If you are not in a situation where you can pay cash for your next car, you can apply for a used car loan directly through 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 car loan calculator will tell you.

Step 8: Sign the Title

After you’ve paid for the car, you and the seller will each fill out and sign the title certificate, 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 title certificate thoroughly. The following info is required:

Vehicle identification number (VIN)
An odometer disclosure statement (in many states)
Damage disclosure statement

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.

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.

Vehicle Identification Number 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 9: Get Car Insurance

Before driving the 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 car insurance right in our app.

Step 10: Finalize with New Jersey MVC

You technically own the car at this point, but the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission 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 new license plates.

They will require the following:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner.
A completed Vehicle Registration Application (Form BA-49)
Payment for New Jersey’s vehicle title transfer fee: $60.
Payment for New Jersey vehicle registration fee: from $46.50 to $84 (depending on the type of vehicle).
Payment for the standard New Jersey license plates: $6.
Payment for New Jersey vehicle sales tax: 7% of your vehicle's 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. New Jersey requires the seller to remove the plates from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to the MVC for new New Jersey license plates. The cost of a standard plate is $6.
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New Jersey Emissions Testing

To complete a title transfer or registration in New Jersey, you will need to perform emission testing unless you meet one of the following exemptions:

Gas-powered cars model year 1995 and older with a GVWR 8,500 pounds or less.
Gas-powered cars registered passenger model year 2007 and older with a GVWR of 8,501 to 14,000 pounds.
Gas-powered cars model year 2013 and older with a GVWR of 14,001 pounds or more.
Historic motor vehicles.
Approved Collector Vehicles which are less than 25 years old
100% Electric vehicles.
All diesel-powered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,501 to 17,999.
All diesel-powered vehicles model year 1996 and older.

If the car that you are buying does not meet any of these criteria, find a local NJ MVC-authorized emissions check station and proceed with the test.

For the locations of smog check stations, visit the New Jersey MVC website.

For most cars, the fee for performing this test will be $50.

New Jersey Vehicle FAQ

What are temporary plates?

A temporary license plate (or "temp tag") can be acquired at the MVC. These temporary vehicle tags are typically valid for 30 days and cost $5, during which time you can apply for and renew your original license plate.

How to request a duplicate title in New Jersey?

Is there a lemon law in New Jersey for used cars?