Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Virginia

Get a better deal when you buy your next vehicle by going directly to a private seller. Plus, you’ll avoid dealer fees. There are a few things you'll need to know about the process in the state of Virginia.
PrivateAuto streamlines the private-party vehicle buying experience and makes it safe and enjoyable. Keep reading to see how to buy your dream car in Virginia, and how we make what could be a daunting task simple and safe.

Should I Buy from a Dealer or a Private Seller?

Conventionally, dealerships offer more convenience, while private sellers offer 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 documentation 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 dealership vehicle purchases, but not private-party ones.

We believe in making private-party transactions as fast and easy as buying a used car from a dealership. That’s what we’re all about.
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Find the Right Car for Your Budget

Most likely, you’ll be shopping for private-party used cars online, which means you’ll be using one of the many websites dedicated to this purpose. After defining your vehicle needs and budget, it’s time to start your search.

Start Searching

When it comes to finding a car online, here are your options for finding the perfect private-party used car for you:

Auction websites such as Bring a Trailer and eBay Motors.
Online classifieds
a. Local classifieds such as KSL Cars.
b. National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Social media listings.
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.

While these places can be great resources to find what you’re looking for, they fall short when it comes time for the transaction. That’s why we refer to them as “meetingplaces” instead of true marketplaces.

PrivateAuto is a transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the deal. If you’d like to see how stress-free and simple buying privately can be, shop our used cars for sale to kick-start the process.

We don’t hate other listing sites. Some have a lot more private-party car inventory than we do. But we still want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

That’s why we created a fast-track solution called DealNow. It allows you to create a personal dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the private owner of the car you want to buy, and get the deal done quickly.

Get your deal started now!

Negotiate Price

You want to get the very best car for your budget. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on cars 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 will try to find out as much as they can 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.

Get a Vehicle History Report

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

We provide 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 steer you away from car-buying scams.

Research the Title

Before meeting up for the test drive, it’s smart to do preliminary research on the car title.
You can use the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title to protect yourself from vehicle fraud.

Rarely, sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive—they may try to pass off a salvage title as clean.

Title research will help you check for:

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

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN) in advance of meeting up. Run the title check, and you’ll have one less worry on your mind.

Take the Car For a Spin

We let you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that never reveals your personal information to the seller.

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

You’ll schedule the test drive in seconds without ever needing to contact the seller. It’s just one of the many ways we streamline private car purchases.

Complete Virginia Paperwork

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

1. Car title
2. Emissions testing
3. Safety inspection
4. Bill of sale

Virginia Certificate of Title

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

Odometer disclosure
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

Virginia Emissions testing

Some counties and cities in Virginia require that all gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles pass an emissions test.

The following counties and cities require emission testing:


Alexandria county
Fairfax county
Loudoun county
Prince William county


Falls Church
Manassas Park

If you live in one of these counties or cities and want to register your car, you will need to find an emissions inspection station and take the test.

Virginia Safety Inspection

In Virginia, all vehicles must pass a safety inspection to get registered. You can get your safety inspection done at most repair shops, and it should cost around $20.

Virginia Bill of Sale

While Virginia doesn't require a bill of sale, we recommend you always complete one with the seller. A bill of sale 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 Virginia 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 app. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Make the Payment

Before PrivateAuto Pay, there weren’t any great ways to send money to the seller. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and cumbersome.

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

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

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way. Even if you’re buying a car on a different platform, you can just invite the seller to DealNow and enjoy all the same benefits.
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Virginia Title Transfer and Registration

After the title is signed over to you, you’ll go to the Virginia Department 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 Virginia sales tax owed.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you transfer your car’s title at the DMV office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
Lien information (if applicable)
Payment for the Virginia vehicle sales tax: 4.15% of the vehicle price
Payment for Virginia’s vehicle title transfer fee: $15
Payment for Virginia registration fee: from $30.75 to $116.49
Payment for Virginia license plate fees: from $40.75 to $45.75
Valid safety inspection sticker
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

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

Virginia Vehicle FAQ

How much is the Virginia car tax?

Virginia's car sales tax rate is 4.15% of the vehicle's sales price. 4.15% is the maximum you’ll pay in sales tax in Virginia, unlike other states where local governments can tack on additional vehicle taxes over and above the state’s tax rate.

How much is a standard license plate in Virginia?

What are the minimum insurance requirements in Virginia?

How much does it cost to register a car in Virginia from out-of-state?

Is the Virginia car tax annual?