When I Buy a Car from a Private Seller Can I Drive it Home?

When you buy a used car from a private seller, you can drive it home in most cases—but make sure you take the right measures for your state. Nothing spoils a victory lap like a citation for illegal driving.
Let’s look at what you need to do—and your other options for getting that car from the seller back to your home.

How Do I Get a Car Back Home I Bought From a Private Seller?

When you buy a car, you have 2 options to get it home:

1. Have it shipped to you. Auto transport is convenient and more affordable than you’d expect. Especially for long-distance purchases, shipping can be the easiest option.
2. Drive it. In most states, you’ll need to have temporary registration and/or temporary license plates, and insurance coverage. Talk to your local DMV in advance of the purchase. They can tell you what you need to do.
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How Does Car Shipping Work?

In the past, car transport was a bit of a hassle. You’d need to coordinate between the seller and a transport company. We’ve made those hassles a thing of the past.

Our RunBuggy integration brings fast, reliable transport into the PrivateAuto ecosystem. When you shop used cars for sale and find the perfect one, you can schedule shipping as part of the dealflow.

Here’s how it works:

1. When you start a PrivateAuto deal, you can get an instant car shipping quote right in the PrivateAuto app.
2. Place your car transport order and specify pickup and dropoff locations.
3. RunBuggy picks the car up. You can stay up to date on its location in your PrivateAuto dashboard.
4. Your car gets delivered. All transport is covered by insurance.

Learn more in our complete guide to car shipping.

Do I Need Car Insurance?

Most states require car insurance in order for you to legally drive. If you’re about to purchase a car, talk to your current insurance company. Many insurance companies will cover your new purchase for a courtesy period if you have another vehicle insured with them. This gives you time to get the vehicle home. After that, you can get a new policy on the car.

Regardless, your insurance agent will be able to help you be compliant with your state’s requirements.

If you don’t have insurance already—or if you’re thinking of switching providers—you can compare multiple car insurance quotes and get coverage within the PrivateAuto app.

What Paperwork Do I Need to Handle?

Whether you choose to drive the car home or not, you’ll need to get the right paperwork done. While requirements vary from state to state, here are the main things you’ll need to take care of:

1. Certificate of title
2. Bill of sale
3. Odometer disclosure

Check what paperwork is required in your state.


When you meet the seller, they’ll sign the certificate of title over to you after you’ve sent payment. Later, you’ll need to complete the title transfer with the DMV (or your state’s equivalent motor vehicle registry agency).

When the seller signs the title to you, double-check that the vehicle information number (VIN), make, model, year, and mileage on the title match the actual vehicle. This prevents title fraud—and clerical errors that can cause trouble for you later.

Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is mandatory in some states and optional in others—but you should complete one regardless. A bill of sale protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the vehicle VIN, the selling price, mileage, and the names and signatures of both parties.

PrivateAuto makes it easy with an official bill of sale right in our app, tailored to your state. You and the seller review the details, and then digitally sign the bill of sale. No printing or scanning; simply sign electronically in the app. It’ll always be there as a reference.

Odometer Disclosure

Federal law requires the seller to complete an odometer disclosure. For most states, the vehicle’s mileage is entered into a specific section of the title. Some states may require an additional written disclosure form. Check what paperwork is required in your state.

What To Do After You Buy a Car From a Private Seller?

While specifics can vary from state to state, here are the basics of what you need to do after buying a car from a private seller.

1. Get used car insurance
2. Transfer the title
3. Register the car under your name
4. Get new license plates

Title Transfer and Registration

The seller has signed the title over to you; now you need to finish the transfer of title with your state’s DMV or equivalent agency. At the same time, you’ll get new license plates, register the car in your name, and pay any sales tax owed.

Bring documentation such as the signed title, bill of sale, proof of auto insurance, and your ID to the DMV.

The DMV will update their records and provide registration documentation in your name.

Get New License Plates

Unless you live in California or Minnesota, you'll need to get new license plates after you buy a car. Your local DMV will provide you with temporary plates to drive while you wait for your permanent plates to arrive in the mail.

How Do I Avoid Fraud When Buying a Car?

Criminals use all sorts of scams to trick car buyers, such as fake vehicle histories, odometer tampering, or title scams.

PrivateAuto offers vehicle history reports with all premium listings and also has identity verification. These measures cut down significantly on fraudsters, but it always pays to be vigilant.

Don't let a seller rush you into accepting a high price or paying without verifying the details and test driving. If a seller gives you a high-pressure "act now or lose out" ultimatum, it's best to walk away. If the car is priced fairly, there will be other listings available without undue seller pressure.

Take your time: inspect the car, verify the VIN, test drive the vehicle, and don’t send payment until the seller has signed the bill of sale and you feel good about the entire arrangement.
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Find your Dream Vehicle on PrivateAuto

Here’s the PrivateAuto car buying process:

1. Browse used cars for sale on PrivateAuto.
2. Make an offer
3. Meet up for the test drive
4. Inspect the car
5. Sign the bill of sale
6. Send payment: PrivateAuto Pay lets you send up to $1M instantly with no transfer fees.
7. Register the car, get license plates, and transfer the title
8. Enjoy your car.

Want to sell your car? Create a listing on PrivateAuto and connect with buyers today!

Buying a Used Car FAQ

What paperwork is needed to buy a car from a private seller?

Check your specific state laws to ensure you get all the mandatory paperwork when buying privately. This documentation is crucial to legalizing the ownership transfer.

Here are some common documents that are typically needed:

- Bill of sale
- Vehicle title
- Registration
- Release of liability
- Odometer statement
- Proof of auto insurance
- State ID
- Inspection forms

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