How to Find a Car for Sale by Owner

by Peter Drea

You may find yourself in a situation where you need to buy a car from an owner rather than a dealer, such as:

  • You want a rare vintage car that is no longer being produced by the manufacturer. Getting such a car may mean buying from someone who owns the particular car model you are seeking.
  • You want to save on the overall cost of the car, since car dealers charge a commission that drives up the cost of the vehicle.
  • You require the owner to guarantee the car's condition. This may be necessary when a car's performance and history are best known by the owner.

You have a few options when trying to find a car for sale by owner; following an organized process will help you find the car you want.

Locate an Owner Through Referrals

You can rely on recommendations from family members or friends to locate the owner of the car model that you need. To do this:

Use word of mouth.

Seek recommendations from people you know. This method is not costly and is ideal, particularly when you're looking for a vintage car that is hard to find in advertisements.

Advertise through social networks.

Place advertisements on your social media pages.

  1. This method will allow for a larger spectrum of friends to view your request and make recommendations by commenting on your post. 
  2. Always provide as much detail as possible in your ads about what you require. The more details you provide, the more accurate the recommendations from your friends will be.


Online advertisements may be replied to by car brokers. Cross-check the information you find through social media.

Check Your Local Print Media

Some local print media -- such as newspapers and magazines -- run a "Classifieds" page that can be a good resource for providing you with the information about people selling their used items, including cars. The ads on classified pages provide the contact information of the owner and the details about the car -- such as the model and the year of registration.


This option is labor-intensive and time-consuming, because to find your desired vehicle, you may have to buy and read many newspapers and magazines -- probably on a daily basis.

Search through Classifieds Sites

Online databases allow owners to post advertisements for cars directly onto websites. To track cars traded by owner:

  • Check different sites, which provide different information about cars for sale by owners. Select websites that give you details such as the owners' contact information, car descriptions, photos of cars and the price of each car model.
  • Depending on your selected database, narrow your search by entering your preferred car model, price range and the location you prefer to buy from

    into the website's look-up system .


  • Search within your hometown or local area. This way you can have your mechanic inspect the car before buying it. This will also save on the cost of driving your vehicle home after buying it.

  • With some websites, you can filter your search by selecting "Private Sellers Only" to be sure that you're dealing with owner-sellers -- not car dealers. 

  • For social media and print media advertisements, you can call the phone number provided by the seller and ask if he has other car models on sale. If the answer is "yes," it means he is probably a dealer -- rarely will a private seller be selling several car models at the same time.

About the Author

Peter Drea has been a full-time professional content writer and editor for more than 10 years. He has been published in both print and web publications. He has written more than 20,000 articles, primarily on computers, medicine, health, law and automotive repair.