Today’s car buyer has a lot of options when it comes to where they get their cars. For buying used cars, some shoppers might feel that private sales are their only option, but most dealerships sell used cars as well as new. In fact, some of these dealers sell used cars almost exclusively! Buying from a used car dealership offers several advantages that private sellers don’t typically offer. Let's examine a few.
1. Greater variety to choose from
Dealerships have a wide variety of vehicles on their lot and sometimes have access to additional inventory from other dealerships they’re partnered with. That means you may have a far greater chance of finding the specific car you wanted compared to scouring "for sale" ads by individual private sellers.
2. More payment options
With a private seller, you’ll typically need to be able to pay for the car entirely in cash or an equivalent form of payment like a check or money order. Used car dealerships, however, can potentially connect used car buyers to financing sources. Note that not all financial institutions offer financing for used cars, but some do. Additionally, used car dealerships sometimes offer their own, in-house financing as well. In this case, the dealer would act as your lender which sometimes allows them greater flexibility when it comes to what credit scores they accept and what interest rates they offer. You may also have the option to use your credit card for some or all of the payment, freeing you from having to worry about saving up for the full price all at once. Just be sure to keep an eye on interest rates charged for “dealership financing” and credit card purchase.
3. Cars are likely to be more reliable
Unlike private sellers, who are largely one-and-done transactions, dealerships often operate on reputation. Customer satisfaction helps them ensure new business keeps walking through the door. As such, it may be in a dealer’s own best interest to make sure they’re selling quality, reliable cars that’ll keep customers happy. Some used car dealerships may even provide a warranty on their vehicles. While it’s usually somewhat limited in scope, it may still be more assurance than you’d get from a private seller.
4. Dealers can provide transparency
One of the biggest concerns buyers have when it comes to buying a used car may be the uncertainty about its past. Private sellers have no specific obligation to be forthcoming about a car’s history. Some owners may decline to disclose this information because they feel their car is “perfectly fine” which leaves you with the task of ordering and paying for the car’s history report, or you could just roll the dice and buy the car without any background information. Dealers, on the other hand, are typically happy to provide you with the vehicle’s history report, so you can see the car's details without chasing them down.
5. More buyer protections
Dealerships are subject to a lot more regulation than a private seller would be. Private sales tend to be categorized “as is,” meaning any undetected defect in the car is solely your liability. At a used car dealership, you’ll have the advantage of seeing a “Buyer’s Guide” sticker. This indicates if the car is being sold "as is" or if it has any additional warranties on it. Dealers are legally mandated to display this sticker on every used car sold. They're also mandated to honor any warranty agreements they’ve made with you.
6. Possibility to trade in your old car
One major advantage of working with a dealership is the possibility of trading in your old car when you get your next one. You can use your trade-in to potentially offset some of the cost of your next car, using the trade-in value to make a bigger down payment.
7. Assistance with paperwork
Whether you’re buying new or used, getting a car involves a fair amount of paperwork. The title must be filled out properly, the vehicle must be registered with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and a bill of sale must be drafted, just to name a few. This can get complicated and matching your schedules could be a hassle if you end up needing some information and cooperation from a private seller. Dealerships streamline this process by doing a lot of it for you. In fact, dealers may have entire departments of people dedicated to filling out and filing the necessary forms on your behalf.
Buying from a used car dealership can provide several advantages that private sellers can rarely offer. Dealers rely on happy customers and word-of-mouth, so they may be diligent about ensuring that every car sold is reliable. You'll be able to get a vehicle history report in most cases, and possibly a warranty of some sort. Used car dealerships can also offer a wider variety of cars than a private seller, plus financing and other financial assistance options to help ensure a smooth transaction.