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​What you need to know when buying an exotic car from a private seller

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​What you need to know when buying an exotic car from a private seller

​What you need to know when buying an exotic car from a private seller

You found an awesome exotic car at an incredible price. That’s great! You’re all geared up to make a deal and close the sale. The only catch is that the seller is a private party. When you purchase from a dealership you have certain protections, especially legally, because your transaction is with a business.

In a selling situation where the dealership (business) is removed it leave you a little vulnerable if you don’t have the knowledge to protect yourself. How do you navigate the process with a private seller?

These tips will help guide you through buying from a private party and keep you from getting a lemon or worse. It is also worth noting that you should do these things even if you know the person who is selling the car. You can’t be too careful.

First Contact

When you go view the car you will likely be asked to go to the seller’s personal residence, often after business hours. In a word, this isn’t safe. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are just looking to scam someone. Don’t let it be you. Instead, ask to meet in a location that is neutral, well lit, and public. There you can view the car, test drive it, and discuss the terms of the sale. If at all possible, avoid meeting at someone’s home but if you must, do so only during daylight hours and bring someone with you. Also, never, ever, ever send electronic payment to a seller for a vehicle that you have not see or laid your hands on.

Viewing the Vehicle

When you are viewing the vehicle, look for any potential problems like rust. It may not be visible so you should look under the car or look for the telltale “rough” paint that comes from rust being painted over. Make sure all lights work, including blinkers. Check and question the clutch, brakes, steering, and any other component of the vehicle that is important to its function. View the car with a very critical eye, regardless of how pretty it looks or how badly you want it.

VIN History Report

Do not purchase a car without first getting a VIN history report (like CarFax) on it and going over it with a fine tooth comb. Look for any red flags and don’t be shy about questioning them! It should show a complete service record, any accidents, and how many owners it has had. This is very important information that you need to determine whether or not the car has been cared for appropriately, has not been in any accidents or floods, and doesn’t have any red flags on its history.

ASE Certified Mechanic Inspection

You may see this as an added expense, but in the long run it can save you a bundle and keep you from being scammed. Have an ASE certified mechanic give the car a good once over. A good mechanic can identify problems that the car may have so you can enter into the sale with your eyes wide open and know exactly what the condition of the car is. This also give you leverage for asking for a reduction in price if the car is not in the condition the seller promised – if you decide to go through with the sale at all. It will also keep you from having costly repairs days or even hours after you close the deal because you bought a lemon.


When you purchase a car from a private seller you shoulder the responsibility for all the paperwork. You always want a bill of sale that states the condition of the car and is signed by both the buyer and seller. There is also the sales tax, financing, and proper registration. Your local DMC can provide you with the information and forms that you need to meet the legal requirements for the paperwork of the sale. Get them ahead of time so you have them when you meet the seller, so you are ready to close the deal.

Red Flags

When you purchase from a dealership you have certain protections in place because you are working with a business. That isn’t to say you can’t get an honest, great deal on an exotic car from a private seller, but you should be careful. If you see any of these red flags it is probably best that you walk away.

  • There have been more than two owners – find out why
  • Seller can’t or won’t put the title in your hand as soon as money changes hands
  • No service records on CarFax
  • Seller wants you to pay but won’t sign the paperwork
  • The car has been repainted (beyond a repainted bumper) – even if the vehicle looks better than new
  • No record of annual service
  • Service records show that the car went in two or more times for the same issue
  • Service records are excessive
  • Lack of certified or authorized mechanics who provided any repairs or maintenance on the vehicle

When you purchase an exotic car from a private party you are usually dealing with strangers. The likelihood that you will be scammed is there, but that doesn’t need to stop you from getting that great deal on the car you want. You just need to walk into the situation well informed and vigilant. And always, if something seems hokey just walk away. Better to lose the deal than suffer some type of harm, be it physical, financial or otherwise.

Buying your next exotic from a private seller? Woodside Credit is one of the few exotic car lenders that does not restrict you to dealerships. You find the car you want – dealership, private party, auction, YOUR CHOICE – and we will help you make it yours with our low, easy payments. Use our Quick Quote tool to see what your payments will be then contact us get the ball rolling.


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