Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Ohio

When you purchase a used car from a private seller, there are several steps you'll need to complete. Here's everything you need to know to do a deal in Ohio.
When you buy a car from a private party, you’ll need to handle a layer of complication yourself. PrivateAuto has figured out how to make this process much easier. Read on to learn the steps you’ll need to take to buy a used car from a private seller in Ohio—and how we improve the car buying experience.

Find a Car That Fits Your Budget

Firstly you need to find a car to buy. Based on your budget, and other factors, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Now, it’s time to find it.
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Start Your Search

When it comes to finding that perfect car in your price range, here are some of your options:

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

While these are a great place to find that snazzy Jeep Wrangler, they fall short when it comes time for the transaction. That’s why we refer to them as “meetingplaces” rather than true marketplaces.

We are the only transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the deal. If you’d like to see how fast and simple private buying can be with PrivateAuto, shop our used cars for sale and begin the car buying process.

By the way, we don’t hate other listing sites. Sure they have more inventory than we do (we’re still young and gaining traction), but we offer the transactional security and convenience that other websites don’t.

That’s why we made DealNow—a fast-track dealflow 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 car for your budget. PrivateAuto empowers you to negotiate pricing, no awkward convos needed. Just offer what you’re willing to pay with our offer feature. If they accept, score! If not, no sweat—the owner can bounce back a counteroffer in a snap.

Research the Car

Savvy buyers want to know as much as possible about a vehicle. There are two ways to learn about a vehicle’s background.

1. Title research
2. Vehicle history report

Research the Title

Before you move forward with a vehicle purchase, do some preliminary research on the car title.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau website allows you to research the title of any car. You might just avoid being the next victim of some car scam.

Good title research will help you check for:

1. Reports of the car having been stolen.
2. The car has been declared a total loss in an insurance claim.
3. An outstanding lien (or lien release).

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN). Run the title check, and have one less thing to worry about.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is always a good idea when buying a used car. It covers ownership history and maintenance records and shows how well the seller cared for their car.

PrivateAuto provides a vehicle history report for all premium listings.

Here are some reasons a vehicle history report helps you have one less thing to worry about.

1. You are aware of any accidents or insurance claims.
2. You know how well the car has been cared for.
3. You can see service records, major repairs, and other work that has been done.

Take the Car for a Test Drive

Unless you’re buying a car long-distance, you’re going to want to test-drive it personally. PrivateAuto lets 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’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 Ohio.

1. Certificate of title
2. Emissions testing
3. Bill of sale

Ohio Certificate of Title

An Ohio certificate of title will require both you and the seller to complete the following information at the time of the sale:

Odometer disclosure
Date of sale
Purchase price
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)
Your hand-printed name and signature

Ohio Emissions Testing

Ohio takes clean air seriously and requires emissions testing to make sure that your car meets state and federal emissions standards. The following counties require emissions testing:

1. Cuyahoga
2. Geauga
3. Lake
4. Lorain
5. Medina
6. Portage
7. Summit

In the counties listed above, cars are required to undergo emissions testing every two years. This includes both passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles, as well as hybrids and electric cars. The fee for emissions testing in Ohio is $18 for most vehicles, but some larger commercial vehicles may be subject to higher fees.

Exempted vehicles include the following:

Noncommercial vehicles that are older than 25 years old
Vehicles that have historical and collector registrations
Motor homes
Vehicles that have parade and exhibition registrations
Recreation vehicles

Ohio Bill of Sale

While Ohio doesn't require a bill of sale, we recommend you always complete one with the seller. This form protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the 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 Ohio bill of sale in the mobile app. Both you and the seller review the details and then digitally sign after inspecting the vehicle. No scanning or printing is needed. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Pay for the Vehicle

There weren't any great ways to pay for a car until we arrived on the scene.

Cash is inconvenient and risky
PayPal has fees.
Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits.
Checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations of existing payment methods, so we created PrivateAuto Pay. Here’s how it works:

1. No exchange of contact or banking info.
2. No transfer fees.
3. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
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.

Ohio Title Transfer and Registration

After the seller signs over the title, you’ll go to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles office (BMV) to finish the title transfer process. You’ll also register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay Ohio sales tax.

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

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous registered owner
A completed
Lien information (if applicable)
Payment for the Ohio sales tax: 5.75% of the purchase price
Payment for Ohio’s vehicle title transfer fee: $15
Payment for Ohio registration fees: from $31 to $35
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to an Ohio title transfer for more info on the subject.
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Should I Buy from a Dealer or a Private Seller?

Traditionally, dealerships have offered more convenience, while private sales have offered better value.

Here at PrivateAuto, we’re big fans of the private seller route. Here are the advantages:

1. 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.
2. Avoid fees. Car dealers charge 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 the seller.
4. In some states, buying from a private seller means no vehicle sales tax. For example, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii charge sales taxes on retail vehicle purchases, but not private-party ones.

We believe in making private-party transactions as easy as buying a used car from a dealership. That’s what we’re all about.

Ohio Vehicle FAQ

Do you pay taxes when you buy a car from a private party in Ohio?

When buying a car in Ohio, you’ll pay 5.75% (plus applicable local tax) of the vehicle’s purchase price, whether you buy from a private seller or a car dealer. The tax law does not discriminate between the two.

In addition to the state’s 5.75%, you may owe county tax as well. Some Ohio counties charge higher taxes than others.

Here is a table of combined car sales tax rates (state and local) for the largest counties by population in Ohio:

Franklin: 7.50%
Cuyahoga: 8%
Hamilton: 7.80%
Summit: 6.75%
Montgomery: 7.50%
Lucas: 7.75%
Butler: 6.50%
Stark: 6.50%
Lorain: 6.50%
Warren: 6.75%

For a full list of counties and their respective sales tax rates, check out the official Ohio Department of Taxation website.

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