How do you buy a car from a private owner?

Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

Dear Driving for Dollars,
We found a great deal on a car owned by a private owner. She lives three hours away and is driving the car down here for our mechanic to inspect it. If we like the car, (the owner) will leave it at our house and return home. She has $8,000 left on her lien. She had us speak with her bank today. They verified what remains on the lien and gave me an address to send a cashier’s check to pay it off. However, after we pay it off, the bank will release the title in her name to her. She then has to sign it and send it to us so we can register the car. We were planning on having a bill of sale notarized and signed by her when she was here. Is there anything else we can do to protect ourselves?
— Jess and Stacey

Dear Jess and Stacey,
Chances are your car deal will go just fine, but you might want to take the extra time to go with the seller to her bank and complete the deal right there to be sure. Is there a branch of her bank in your town or nearby? If not, you may want to travel to her town to complete the transaction. If you go to the bank together, you can pay off the car loan directly and the owner can sign over the rights to the car’s title at the same time. The bank probably has someone on staff who can notarize the bill of sale, too.

Ask the adviser

If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.

Bankrate’s content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate’s Terms of Use.