Buying a Used Car From a Private Seller in Texas

When purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller in Texas, there are some basic tips to follow. This article will keep you on track.
It’s important that you stay safe and secure when shopping for used vehicles. Let’s talk about how to navigate the Texas car-buying process.

PrivateAuto has private-party used cars for sale in Texas and also provides an end-to-end platform to get the deal done. From immediate payment transfers to secure messaging, we offer an unprecedented level of convenience and security for the transaction process.
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What is the Process of Buying a Used Car in Texas?

In Texas, you should go through the following steps when buying a used car from a private party.
1. Find a seller who is selling a car you like
2. Set a price you both can agree on
3. Schedule a test drive
4. Handle the documentation
5. Pay the seller
6. Have the seller transfer the ownership of the car title
7. Register the car in your name and sales taxes and pay fees
8. Get new license plates

Let’s go over the process in more detail.

Choose a Car You Like

You’re better off purchasing a car from a private party than from a Texas car dealer. In order to be as profitable as possible, dealerships buy low and sell as high as possible. You’re far more likely to get a better deal by going directly to a private-party seller.

PrivateAuto has a generous selection of used cars for sale in Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, and elsewhere across the state of Texas. We offer security and convenience features no other competitor has, from in-app test drive scheduling to instantaneous funds transfer of any amount.

Speaking of test drives…

Go For a Test Drive

Once you’ve found a car that you like, and settled on the price, it’s time to meet up with the seller and take the vehicle for a test drive.

Arrange the Meetup

Other used car marketplaces leave the meetup organization to you. Organizing the initial meetup traditionally requires exchanging personal info and having a lot of back-and-forth with the seller. With PrivateAuto, your personal info is kept private. Our handy in-app scheduler allows you and the seller to arrange the perfect time and place.

Research the Vehicle History Report

It’s always smart to research the car’s history before purchasing. You can get a detailed history report through a service like CarFax. Or, you can get a car history report when you use PrivateAuto.

AutoCheck and PrivateAuto have partnered in order to provide buyers with a motor vehicle information check and report. When PrivateAuto sellers choose a Premium listing, we include the car history report for peace of mind.

(Optional) Mechanical Inspection

Before buying a used car, you may want to perform a mechanical inspection on it. This is especially advisable for cars that have high mileage. If you are experienced enough, you can perform the pre-purchase inspection at the test drive. Or, you can get it inspected by a professional mechanic.

PrivateAuto gives you all the technology and tools necessary to close the deal at the test drive meeting. If you’re opting for a professional vehicle inspection, you’ll be adding at least a couple extra days onto the closing process.

Deal With the Paperwork

Paperwork is a vital part of the transaction process. Different states have different document requirements, but here is the standard paperwork involved in a used car transaction:
Odometer statement
Bill of sale

Fill Out the Certificate of Title

You and the seller need to fill out the Certificate of Title. Required information contains the following info:
Vehicle Identification Number
Vehicle make, model, and other information
Your name and address
Valid ID information
Vehicle purchase price

Odometer Disclosure

In the past, any vehicle less than 10 years old was required to have an odometer disclosure form completed at time of sale. As of January 1, 2021, an odometer reading is now required for any vehicle 20 years or older, according to the Texas DMV.

If the car is 20 years or older at the date of sale, then you don’t need to include the odometer disclosure. This process is used to ensure an accurate reading. It’s also important to note if there are any known issues with an odometer.

Our app includes an odometer reading entry, where both the buyer and the seller confirm mileage before taking the next step.

Texas Bill of Sale

In Texas, a bill of sale is not required if purchasing a vehicle from a private seller. Even though it’s not required, we recommend a bill of sale, because it provides legal proof of the transaction and purchase price.

PrivateAuto includes a Texas bill of sale as part of our standard in-app transaction process. At the appropriate stage in the transaction, both you and the seller will be prompted to e-sign the bill of sale within the mobile PrivateAuto app.

The whole transaction, the bill of sale included, can be completed in a few minutes when you meet for the test drive and approve the car. It’s very fast and convenient. You won't have to keep track of all your paperwork: you will always have the electronic bill of sale accessible in your PrivateAuto account to prove that the transaction was legitimate.

Check the Vehicle Identification Number

When buying a used car, always check the vehicle identification number (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 vehicle information number on the title when you go to register your newly-bought car with the State of Texas.

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

Emissions Testing

The following counties require emission testing on any gasoline vehicle that is between 2 and 24 model years old.
El Paso
Fort Bend

If you are registering your car in any of these counties, find a Texas DPS station locator and proceed with the test.

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

Exemptions to emissions testing:
Vehicles made in the last 2 model years
Vehicles made more than 24 years ago
Diesel vehicles
Electric vehicles

Send Payment to the Seller

It’s time for you to pay the seller for the vehicle. Until PrivateAuto arrived on the scene, there haven’t been a lot of safe ways to send large amounts of cash in a private car transaction.

Welcome to PrivateAuto Pay

Our integrated banking gateway, PrivateAuto Pay, allows you to instantly send any amount of cash. The seller will get the payment in a matter of seconds, whether it's late at night or a national holiday. We charge no payment processing fee. It’s truly revolutionary.

So, if you don’t like the idea of carrying a briefcase full of money or waiting for a check to clear, you’ll love PrivateAuto Pay.

Vehicle Financing Available

Oh, and if you didn't want to pay out-of-pocket for your next vehicle, you can apply for a used car loan right within the PrivateAuto app. Once you get approved, your profile will show that you have verified funds, making you stand out from other buyers.

When closing the deal and sending payment, our lending partner will pay the seller in full. You'll make monthly car payments to the lender. It's that easy. Wondering how much your payments will be? Our vehicle loan calculator will tell you.

Texas Title Transfer

The key component of the entire transaction is transferring a Texas car title from seller to buyer. Once the seller signs the title and hands it to you, the vehicle is legally yours. There are still some steps remaining for you to take following the title transfer, but you now own the car.

To transfer Texas vehicle titles successfully, sellers must complete the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the front of the title certificate and include the following:
Proof of insurance under the buyer’s name
ID for buyer and seller
Proof of inspection
Title transfer fees
Sign appropriate affidavits

Title Transfer Fees

The title transfer process involves several fees. These include the registration fee, title transfer fee, tag fee, and sales tax. You may also need to pay an emissions fee or gift tax, depending on your location and the vehicle.

These fees vary depending on the sale price, the original value of the vehicle, and your county. Some counties, for example, charge around $28 for title fees, while others charge $33.

What If There is More Than One Vehicle Owner?

If there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign the document in order for the title transfer to be legitimate.

Should You Conduct Title Research?

Before meeting up with the seller, it’s always good to do preliminary research on the car title.

Any Texas attorney will recommend using the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title of a potential used vehicle purchase 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.

Good title research will help you check for:
Reports of the car having been stolen
The car having been declared a total loss in an insurance claim
Release of lien

Finalize with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

When the seller is out of the picture and you own the vehicle, you need to finalize the process by visiting your local Texas DMV location.

You’ll need to complete the following at your local DMV:
1. Finalizing the transfer of title with the State of Texas.
2. Registering the car in your name and getting new registration tags
3. Paying taxes and fees
4. Getting new license plates

Transfer the Title in Texas

After buying a used car in Texas from a private seller, you’ll need to complete an Application for Certificate of Title, attach it to the title, and submit it to the DMV along with the required documentation and payments.

When you purchase a car from a private party, you will be required to complete the title transfer within 30 business days.

The Texas DMV recommends that the seller accompanies you to the county tax office to avoid undesirable surprises during the transfer.

License Plates and Registration

Different states will have different regulations for license plates in car sales. Some states allow the plates to remain with the car and pass on to the buyer. Sadly, Texas is not one of those states. When you buy a used car in Texas from a private owner, Texas laws mandate that the seller must remove the license plate from the car as well as peel off the registration sticker.

Texas offers mail, in-person, and online car registration.

For the initial registration, you will need:
Vehicle inspection and insurance
Application for Texas title and/or registration (form 130-u)
Driver license
During the initial registration, you will also apply for your set of license plates.

What Are the Fees When Buying A Used Car in Texas?

The car buying price never includes the used vehicle sales tax, registration, and title transfer fees, which the buyer will pay on top of the car itself.

Here are additional fees you'll pay beyond the purchase price when buying a used car in Texas:
Title fee: $28 or $33
Texas sales tax: 6.25% on the purchase price of the car
License and registration fees: $51.75

Oh, and, by the way, PrivateAuto charges no buyer fees. The buyer pays for the car only and has no transaction-related costs on our platform.

Buying Your Dream Car with PrivateAuto

PrivateAuto makes buying a used car fast and hassle-free. No matter if you’re looking for Toyota Camrys, Ford F150s, Chevrolet Silverados, or Chrysler 200, you’re sure to find a great deal on the ride you always dreamed of.

We are the only end-to-end car-buying platform that gives you everything you need to get the deal done, from making offers to sending payments.

Browse our used cars for sale in Texas.

The PrivateAuto buying process consists of a couple of simple steps:

Sign up and get verified on PrivateAuto

To make PrivateAuto a safe place for everyone, we require email, phone, and driver’s license verification, including facial recognition.
Feel confident with ID Verification

Scroll through the listings

It’s so easy to browse listings of used cars for sale on PrivateAuto. Filter by make, model, mileage, year, and other criteria to make your search simpler and faster.

Make offers on vehicles you like

Make offers on cars that catch your eye. It’s up to you whether to accept the seller’s asking price, or to offer a lower price. You can also decide whether to accept ID-verified sellers only.

Schedule the initial test drive

As the buyer, you will want to test drive the car. No more back-and-forth texts. You never have to give out your phone number. Rather, use our handy scheduling feature to coordinate a time and place for a test drive. (Oh, and you’ll be able to finalize the transaction instantly at the test drive location, FYI.)

Fill out the required paperwork

After you are satisfied with the car and the two of you have agreed on a purchase price, you can easily e-sign the Bill of Sale within our app, from your phone. With our shared documents feature, you can easily locate the paperwork needed after the sale.

Pay the seller right on the spot

Before PrivateAuto, receiving funds was the most stressful part of the entire purchasing process, especially for any used vehicle purchases over $5,000. There just aren’t a lot of good ways to move large amounts of money quickly and conveniently.

Those days are over! Verify and send out the funds instantaneously with PrivateAuto Pay, our innovative banking integration. Guaranteed funds for transactions large and small.

Do the car title transfer

When purchasing a used vehicle, you must fill out the necessary information on the title transfer document.

Selling your vehicle? Choose PrivateAuto to get the best price and transact efficiently and safely!

Texas Used Car Buying Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of insurance does my newly-bought used car need?

Used cars, just like new cars, are required to have liability car insurance at a minimum. Every insurance company will have different rates, so shop around.

Texas requires you to carry evidence of your auto insurance in your car.

Liability insurance is mandatory in Texas. You can consider purchasing collision, comprehensive, and gap insurance, but these are not required.

Is buying a car privately in Texas for cash a good idea?

Who pays for the title transfer fee in Texas?

How to protect yourself when buying a car privately?

What is the lemon law in Texas?