Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Rhode Island

A private-party vehicle purchase can offer better value than a dealership vehicle. Here's what you need to know to navigate the process in Rhode Island.
When you purchase a pre-owned vehicle from a private party, there are a few more steps to navigate. Fortunately, we’ve figured out how to make the process a whole lot easier. Read on to learn what to do—and how PrivateAuto can help.

Find the Right Car at the Right Price

Obviously, you need to find a car to buy. Based on your budget, vehicle requirements, and other factors, you probably have a good idea of what you’re looking for. It’s time to find it.
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Begin Researching

Here are your options for finding your dream car from a private seller:

Online classifieds.
a. Local classifieds such as KSL Cars (Utah).
b. National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.
Social media listings (e.g., cars for sale on Facebook Marketplace).
Auction websites such as Bring a Trailer and eBay Motors.

While these websites can be great resources to find that Toyota Camry you’re looking for, they fall short when it comes time to do the transaction. That’s why we call them “meetingplaces” instead of true marketplaces. They don’t provide infrastructure to enable the private sale.

We are the only transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every aspect of the deal. If you’re curious to see how easy the private-party purchase can be, browse our used cars for sale to start the process.

But hey, we don’t dislike the other listing sites. They may have more cars in your desired price range than we do.

But we still want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy. That’s why we made DealNow. DealNow allows you to create your dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the owner of the car you want to buy, and fast-track the transaction. Get your deal started now!

Negotiate a Price

You want to get the very best car you can afford. 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.

Research the Car

A savvy buyer wants to know more about the car they’re getting. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are a vehicle history report and research on the car’s title.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is a very smart 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 gives you peace of mind.

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

A vehicle history report can help you steer clear of buying a faulty used car and help you find the ones worth your money.

Research the Title

Before meeting up with the seller, it’s always good to research the car title yourself.
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—one of the most common car scams targeting buyers.

Take the Car For a Test Drive

Unless you’re buying a car remotely, you’ll want to test-drive it yourself. Our platform lets you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that never reveals your personal information to the seller.

1. Our in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen. No long back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can choose to transact with verified sellers only, which tends to fish out any rotten fish who prefer to operate in the shadows.

Complete Rhode Island Paperwork

Paperwork is a critical part of the transaction process. Here is the paperwork involved in a Rhode Island used car transaction:

1. Title
2. Bill of sale

Rhode Island Certificate of Title

You and the seller need to fill out the official Rhode Island Certificate of Title. A Rhode Island title will require you and the seller to complete the following information at the time of the sale the following info:

Seller’s hand-printed name, signature, and address (if there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign)
Date of sale
Purchase price
Your hand-printed name and signature

Rhode Island Bill of Sale

Rhode Island requires a bill of sale. It 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 previous owner 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 Rhode Island 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 car. No printing or scanning—simply sign electronically in the PrivateAuto mobile app. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Perform a VIN Inspection

When buying a used car in Rhode Island, check the VIN that the previous owner 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 car information number on the title when you go to register your newly bought car at the DMV 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

When it comes time to pay the seller for their car, there aren’t a lot of great options—until now. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees and limits, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations of existing payment methods, so we created a solution. We call it PrivateAuto Pay. Our users call it magic. Here’s how it works:

1. No transfer fees.
2. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
3. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around banker’s hours.
4. No exchange of contact or banking info.
5. Act as your own escrow service with our secure dealflow.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way. Don't worry, if you’re buying a car on a different website, invite the seller to DealNow to enjoy all the same benefits.

Perform Emissions Testing

To title and register your vehicle, you will need to perform emissions testing. All vehicles that have over 24,000 miles have to be tested at your local emissions testing center. The emissions inspection costs $55.00 and provides a sticker that is valid for two years.
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Rhode Island Title Transfer and Registration

After the seller has signed the title to you, you’ll go to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay your Rhode Island sales tax owed. Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you visit the DMV office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
A completed Application for Registration and Title Certificate (Form TR-1)
Proof of insurance
Lien information (if applicable)
Payment for the Rhode Island vehicle sales tax: 7% of the purchase price
Payment for Rhode Island’s vehicle title transfer fee: $52.50
Payment for the filing fee: $11
Payment for the security interest assignment: $1
Payment for lien recordation fee: $2
Payment for vehicle transfer tax: $10
Payment for public safety vehicle fee: $3.50
Payment for Rhode Island registration fees: from $30 to $48
Payment for $15 DOT annual surcharge
Payment for a Rhode Island license plate: $32.50 and up, depending on plate type
Valid ID or driver's license

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

Rhode Island Vehicle FAQ

How much is Rhode Island's registration renewal?

The cost to renew a vehicle registration in Rhode Island depends on the vehicle's model year and value.

Here are the key details:

- Passenger vehicle registration renewals range from $30 to $48.
- There is also a $15 DOT surcharge applied to all registration renewals.
- Renewals can be done online, by mail, or at DMV branches.

The specific fee is determined by the vehicle's model year and value according to rate tables provided by the RI Division of Motor Vehicles.

How much are temporary plates in Rhode Island?

What if I want to sell my car in Rhode Island?

How to transfer an out-of-state title?

What is the most popular license plate design in Rhode Island?