Used car buying process?

Hello, I know this is a dumb question, but i was hoping to get some answers on buying a used car from another person.

I’m assuming the process is we agree on a price and then I go to find a loan for that price, and then get a check for the seller?

Afterwards, do we just need to do the title transfer (is it expensive? I’m in CA)? Or are there any other fees I need to be aware of?


I don’t know about California, but in the couple of states where I have bought and sold cars you have to get the title put in the name of the bank that loans you the money, or at least a title lien noted on the title. Other than that, you pretty much have it down.

Make sure you look up the wholesale and retial value on the vehicle on Edmunds or kelly’s before making an offer, have it checked out by your own mechanic etc. Usually a bill of sale is needed, simple, VIN # purchase amount etc etc plus the title etc. Most Bills of Sale say vehhicle sold as is!

The people who give you the loan might do all the paperwork for you. They also will tell you if you ask them.

I’m not in California, but I assume you’d want to read the information at

The previous link doesn’t work, but this one should:

The process might vary a bit in each state, but in all cases the lending company will inform you of the procedures and will handle the paperwork. Make your inquiries at the loan office.

Negotiate a price. If you sign a agreement make sure it has a clause that says it’s void if you can’t get financing.

The idea about looking up the Blue-Book value is valid. Most if not all loan institutions use KBB to determine how much you are allowed to borrow.

If you agree on a price for Car Y…But the KBB value for Car Y says it’s $1000 LESS then what you agreed to pay…the loan company WON’T give you the price you agreed on. They’ll only give you the price from KBB.

Find a lender first. Don’t get too wrapped up in the exact car, though. See if there are differences in how the age and mileage of the car effect the interest rate. Once you have a lender, find a car. You won’t be as tempted to jump at a lender to get the car quickly if you find a lender first. If you have a credity union, you might check there.

Don’t know about CA but in NY you have to pay the sales tax on a private sale when you register it. So make sure you have a bill of sale. If you are tempted to do a deal with the seller where he gives you an artificially low BoS, don’t be – they are wise to that and it really is not worth having a record as a tax cheat. So when you are settling on a price don’t forget you are going to have to find that additional 7% or whatever.

Thanks for the tax tip!

Also in California the seller has to smog the car before selling it to you. I think the smog certificate is valid for 90 days. Make sure this happens, not passing the smog means repairs right in the beginning. Also if you get the VIN you can check the smog history of the vehicle online for free. It helps to know the car was flunking the smog couple of times to ask the owner about repairs. Go to the Ca DMV website also.