How to Find Cars For Sale by Owner Near Me?

Buying a used car from a private seller is the best way to save money and get the most car for your buck. Used car dealers charge markups and dealer fees. Skip all that and go straight to the source.
Whether you’re looking for a rear-wheel drive coupe in San Diego, or a Toyota Sequoia in Fort Myers, here are the steps you’ll take to find the best used cars for sale in your area:

1. Choose one or more car buying websites to shop
2. Use filters to narrow your search.
3. Browse vehicles that meet your requirements and compare prices
4. Initiate contact with the owner of the vehicle you want to buy
5. Use PrivateAuto to close the deal (after experiencing the convenience of our dealflow, you’ll never want to buy a private-party car without us)

Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.

Start Your Search Online

There are a lot of websites dedicated to private-party car transactions. Here are some of the most popular:

Facebook Marketplace
Local classifieds (for example, KSL Cars in Salt Lake City, Utah)

While these platforms introduce you to cars for sale in your area, they lack transactional capabilities. We call them "meetingplaces" because they connect you with a car (and its seller)—and then leave you to muddle through the logistics of meeting, payment, and all the rest of the steps involved in purchasing the car. It’s not easy.

PrivateAuto is a new type of marketplace. We don’t allow dealerships, so all the cars for sale on our site are from private sellers.

We don’t just connect you to a seller; we give you all the tools you need to get the deal done, from secure communications to electronic docu-signing to instant and fee-free payments up to $1M.

Browse used cars for sale by owner to get started.
Image highlighting DealNow by PrivateAuto

Filter Search Results

Once you’ve decided on a car listing website, browse used cars for sale and apply filters to narrow down the cars for sale.

Here are some filters you can apply, depending on the site (some have different filters available than others):

1. Price
2. Vehicle class (e.g., trucks for sale, convertibles for sale, electric vehicles for sale)
3. Make and/or model (Tesla, Silverado, Corolla, Alfa Romeo, etc.)
4. Model year
5. Mileage
6. Drivetrain: transmission type (automatic transmission, manual transmission), all-wheel drive vs front-wheel drive vs rear-wheel drive vs four-wheel drive
7. Fuel type: gasoline, diesel, hybrid, electric
8. Amenities: leather seats, heated seats, heated steering wheel, moon roof, onboard navigation system, premium sound system, keyless start, etc.
9. Safety features: brake assist, stability control, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, child safety locks, etc.

Once you’ve narrowed search results down to match your budget and vehicle type, it’s time to contact some sellers.

Contact the Seller

Most platforms have a clunky interface for interactions with the vehicle seller. Typically, communications and purchases take one of the following forms (or a combination of the two):

1. Share your contact info and initiate a conversation off the platform.
2. Message via a built-in app to negotiate pricing, ask questions, and schedule the test drive.

PrivateAuto has created a better way.

If you want to negotiate the price, skip the awkward convo and offer what you’re willing to pay via our innovative “make an offer” feature. The seller will be able to accept, reject, or counter your offer with the click of a button.
If you’re ready to accept the seller’s asking price, you’ll be able to schedule the meetup with no back-and-forth needed. You’ll choose a time from the seller’s pre-set availability, and meet at the location they’ve predetermined. Boom: test drive scheduled.
You’ll never give out your personal contact info, since everything happens inside the PrivateAuto app. It’s one of many ways we protect you.

Research the Vehicle

It’s smart to research the vehicle’s title and history. You might just avoid a lemon. Here are the things to focus on:

VIN: provides vehicle history like accidents, usages, and recalls. Can uncover issues like salvage titles.
Maintenance records: may reveal recurring issues and also whether a vehicle was properly maintained.
Title: verify ownership legality and check for branded title issues.

Fortunately, PrivateAuto includes a vehicle history report with all premium listings, so you know what you’re getting.

What is the Best Place to Buy a Car Online?

There are many car-buying apps and listing sites, but only one that gives you all the tools you need to get the deal done safely, securely, and fast.

PrivateAuto is the world’s first and only fully transactional marketplace, offering self-service technological solutions for every stage of the deal.

Never give out your contact info—all interactions happen in the PrivateAuto app
Step-by-step transaction walkthrough protects both parties
Get financing right in the PrivateAuto ecosystem—no scheduling between multiple parties
Verified sellers to weed out car scams
Offer what you think is a fair price with our “make an offer” feature
Vehicle history report (included on all premium listings) so you know what you’re getting
Act as your own escrow service with our escrow-like safeguards
Shop insurance quotes and get coverage right within the PrivateAuto app
Advanced encryption protects your data from hackers
Conveniently schedule the test drive meetup with a couple of clicks (skip those back-and-forth conversations)
Schedule vehicle transport right in the PrivateAuto app (perfect for those long-distance car purchases)
Both parties electronically sign an official bill of sale in the PrivateAuto app so that you’re safe to send payment (the seller is legally bound to deliver the car)
Send up to $1M fee-free—the seller receives it instantly and can sign over the title to you
Wrap up the entire transaction in a few minutes
Shop for used car warranties and get warranty coverage right within the PrivateAuto app

To experience the hassle-free simplicity of PrivateAuto, browse our used cars for sale and begin your car-buying journey.

Even though PrivateAuto is the best place to buy a car online, we don’t hate other listing sites. Many of them have a lot more private-party car inventory than we do (we’re still growing our user base). We want you to be able to buy a car securely and conveniently, no matter where you find it.

That’s why we created a fast-track solution called DealNow. Start your deal anywhere, finish it on PrivateAuto with our fast-tracked dealflow. Create a personal dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the owner of the car you want to buy, and get the transaction done quickly and securely.

Get your deal started now!

How Does DealNow Work?

Let's say your neighbor down the street is selling a car and it's not listed on PrivateAuto. You can enjoy the power and convenience of our transactional infrastructure to get the deal done. Ditto if you find a car on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or any of the other meetingplaces that proliferate online.

DealNow gets the deal done securely, conveniently, and fast. You’ll save hours and spare yourself some serious stress.

Bypass the shopping and negotiation steps.
Enjoy all the convenience and security of PrivateAuto, including instant payments via PrivateAuto Pay.

Case study:

Eric was “heading out of the country and needed to make a deal fast or no deal would happen at all.” The seller of a black classic Triumph TR6 convertible was in another state, necessitating a remote transaction.

Eric and the seller each created a PrivateAuto profile and Eric funded his PrivateAuto Pay account with enough money to buy the car. A family member test-drove the car on Eric’s behalf.

In Eric’s own words:

Once I got the green light to buy the car, we signed the bill of sale and title transfer online and Private Auto instantly transferred the money from my account to his. I cannot express to you how important the “Instant transfer" was for making this deal happen.
I had a transport company lined up. If the seller had to wait the typical 2-3 days for a wire to come through, he’d feel uneasy letting go of the car. If I had to send him the money 2-3 days early, I’d feel uneasy that I might not get a car.

PrivateAuto Pay solved the “problem of trust” between strangers, something that many people use an escrow company for. Escrow companies are clunky and expensive; PrivateAuto Pay is seamless and has no fees associated with funds transfer.
Image highlighting Buying Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Look Out for Car Buying Scams

The private-party vehicle market is awash with fraudsters. Even though they make up a tiny percentage of vehicle sellers, you want to be vigilant. Regardless of which car-buying app you use, watch out for the following scams.

1. Must sell now scam: the seller creates artificial urgency to pressure you into skipping inspection or due diligence. Usually, they have something to hide.
2. Third-party scam: a fraudulent third party poses as the seller to intercept payment.
3. Gift card scam: the seller asks to be paid via unusual methods such as gift cards, which is a major red flag (always pay with PrivateAuto Pay and you’ll protect yourself).
4. Wire transfer scam: the scammer will insist on a wire transfer as the method of payment. Wire transfers are attractive to scammers because they are hard to trace and almost impossible to reverse. Again, use PrivateAuto Pay.
5. Purchase protection scam: the seller offers bogus extra "protection" services designed to extract more money from you.
6. Escrow scam: the seller pressures you to use a seemingly legitimate escrow company, which ends up being a front controlled by the seller. You send the money to “escrow” and never hear from them again. PrivateAuto gives you escrow-like safeguards without the inconvenience and cost.
7. Curbstoning: illegal and unlicensed sellers repeatedly sell cars on the street without oversight. Vehicles often have undisclosed problems.
8. Title washing: the seller conceals a salvaged or rebuilt title by "washing" past history from the title documentation.
9. Odometer fraud: the seller has illegally rolled back the odometer to show inflated low mileage to increase sales price (this is a federal offense, by the way).
10. "Just needs" scam: the seller downplays major mechanical issues with vague statements like "just needs a new starter". Issues often end up being far more complex and expensive.
11. Car cloning: the seller creates counterfeit VIN and title documentation to sell a stolen or written-off vehicle.
12. Deposit scam: similar to the escrow scam, the seller takes a deposit from you and then disappears with the money.

Read our guide to common car-buying scams for more detailed info on each of these and how to avoid them. And use DealNow to take advantage of our technology safeguards.

Buying a Used Car FAQ

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.

What is the best time to buy a car?

What’s the cheapest way to buy a car?

When I buy a car from a private seller, can I drive it home?