How to Get Used Cars For Sale By Owner Online

by Brandon M. Dennis

There are plenty of reputable websites where you can find used cars for sale by the owner, but the trick is finding local sellers. Unless you are looking to buy an extremely rare car, or you can get an amazing deal elsewhere that makes traveling worthwhile, limit your search to nearby areas so that you don't waste a lot of money.

Classified Ads on eBay

At the time of publication, eBay Classifieds lists nearly 24,000 secondhand cars for sale by owner. That number sounds impressive, but it is covering a lot of area that you probably don't want to travel to in order to buy a car. Use the location search on that site to narrow the search radius. For example, at the time of publication, about 100 cars are listed for sale around Newark, New Jersey.

As opposed to the regular eBay site, its classifieds section is separate, and eBay does not offer a payment service between you and the seller. It is up to you to meet the seller in person and pay for the vehicle. The site takes no responsibility for fraud.

Cars Online Free

The website Cars Online Free is another large and popular website for private car sales. At the time of publication, there are almost 4,000 vehicles for sale within 500 miles of New York City. Similar to eBay Classifieds, the website directs you to contact the seller privately -- and to ask any questions, set up a deal and make payments directly to the seller. As the name of the site suggests, listings here are free, so you may find many people advertising their cars just to get an idea of the price who aren't as motivated to sell until they get an offer they are very happy with.

Cars.com

Possibly the largest online resource for buying used cars directly from the owner, Cars.com lists over 31,000 vehicles for private sale, at the time of publication.

Tip

  • Ensure you are using the advanced search feature and have selected "Private Party + Classified" at the bottom of the options; otherwise, you will be searching every type of listing.

Hemmings -- Classic Cars

If you're not looking for just any car and you want to drive a piece of history, take a look at Hemmings online classifieds. The website has over 23,000 classic cars listed at the time of publication. More than 4,000 of those cars are listed for over $50,000, and almost 7,000 are listed for over $20,000, which gives you an idea of the kinds of clients the site caters to.

AutoTrader

Another great source is AutoTrader.com, which allows users to find local vehicles for sale by setting parameters, such as price, distance, mileage, year, type of vehicle, make and model, as well as other variables. AutoTrader has had a solid reputation for selling used cars online for years and should be at the top of the list for anyone trying to buy a pre-owned vehicle on the Internet.

Tip

  • Don't limit yourself to just one site, because you may find a better price by shopping around. It may also strengthen your negotiating power with perspective sellers when you can show them that you've found a better offer elsewhere.

Closing the Deal

Once you have made arrangements with the seller to purchase the vehicle, you will either need to meet with him in person or have the car delivered to you. If you choose to have the car delivered to you, then it is highly advisable that you place the funds in a third-party escrow account that will only allow the seller to access the money when you confirm that you have actually received the vehicle. Using escrow accounts can protect both you and the seller from fraudulent activity or other malicious motives. You will also need to arrange for the title to be signed over to your name. Your local motor vehicles agency should be able to assist you with transferring the title without having to meet the seller in person.

If you choose to meet the seller in person, bring a trusted friend with you to ensure your safety. Along with providing the seller with the funds, you will need to make a trip to your local motor vehicles office with a signed copy of the title and may have to pay a title transfer fee that is usually from $50 to $100, at the time of publication, which covers the cost of making a permanent title and registering the vehicle under your name.

Tip

  • As always, be careful when dealing with strangers you have only communicated with online or over the phone, and never send money in advance.

About the Author

Brandon Dennis holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Central Florida with a minor in journalism. Since then, he has enjoyed working in the automotive aftermarket and has done so for the past six years. He is also currently seeking an ASE Certified Technician Certificate.