Car Buying Tips: Individual vs Dealership

There is a ton of information out there about scams and deceit that happens when buying a used car from a dealership. There are definite pitfalls to buying from an individual as well. When it comes down to it, the real question is, "How hard are you willing to work for a good deal?"

Conventional thinking is that it is easier to buy a vehicle off of an individual than it is from a dealership. Fewer hoops, fewer lies, cheaper and less hassle -- or is it?

Many car dealers are slowly, surely, and finally starting to become more truthful in their dealings with customers. It isn't because they ever really wanted to. The information and Car Buying Tips on the Internet in this highly competitive market have forced auto dealerships to "come clean" in many aspects of their dealings.

Car sellers, on the other hand, are still as up and down as ever. There are many people who are honest and straightforward with selling their vehicle, just by nature. Still, there are those who are taking advantage of the Internet and the wealth of resources available to make great money selling as an individual.

Many "individual" sellers actually have a dealer's license because they are selling more than the limit of cars that an individual can sell in a year. These licenses are not cheap.

With that said, please erase any ideas that car dealers all lie and most individuals do not. Honesty must be judged on a case by case basis, so that is no longer part of the general equation.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Selection: There is no competition. It is easier to find a vehicle by searching dealership inventories than it is from individuals.

Price: Normally, it is less expensive to buy from a individual. With no commission, no "dealer pack", and no advertising costs, an individual can sell their car for less (but be careful, as "can" does not mean "will").

Condition: Most reputable car dealers will inspect their vehicles before selling them. Many smaller dealers and some individuals will "bandaid" fix items such as adding Freon to the a/c, adding "No-Smoke" to the engine, etc.

Trading: Few individuals are willing to give money or value for a traded vehicle. In other words, if you have a car, you can trade it at the dealership when you buy. Buying a car from an individual adds the extra step of selling your old car. Dealers like Portland Auto Dealers are willing to look at vehicles for trade or purchase.

Buying Experience: Very few people look forward to dealing with a car dealership, regardless of how good they are at customer service. It is an ordeal almost without exception. One exception is Los Angeles Honda Dealers. Individuals are normally a handshake, count the money, sign the title, and another handshake.

Post Buying Experience: There are many horror stories on both sides for this one. Dealers can be reluctant to fix a car that was sold "As-Is", while individuals are often hard to track down, plus getting them to fix something, either through asking or through the legal system, is almost impossible.


It seems like a pretty even comparison. In the end, it all comes down to time and patience. If you have the time to sift through the bad, check vehicles out thoroughly, and wait for that perfect deal, buying from an individual may be the best bet. If you need a car this week, don't dismiss individuals, but be wary. A car dealer may be your only real option.

About the Author
J.D. is Marketing Specialist for TK Carsites. This car buying advice article is brought to you by Portland Auto Dealers and Los Angeles Honda Dealers.