I'm going to buy a car from a private seller. The seller bought this car from Dealer X couple years ago. Now, the seller wants to buy a new car from Dealer N. The seller didn't like Dealer N's trade in offer for their current car, hence they want to sell their car privately to get more money for it.

However, the seller still has payments remaining on the car to Dealer X. AFAICT, Dealer N told the seller that they can sell the car privately, however the sale must happen in Dealer N's office and the payment should be made to Dealer N. The seller's remaining payments to the car would be added to the payments of their new car that the seller will be buying from Dealer N. (Remember that these remaining payments are actually payments to be made to Dealer X, since the seller bought the car from them).

So, in some sense, I will be buying the car from the Dealer N. However, the seller told me that there won't be any tax payment on it (at least until registering the car), even though technically I'm buying from a dealer.

Does anyone have any idea about this? Is everything right here? Any gotchas that I need to be aware of?

P.S: The seller most likely owes the payments to a bank, instead of Dealer X. Hence, AFAICT, Dealer X has no role in this scenario whatsoever. Realizing this now.

  • Any gotchas that I need to be aware of? Who are you in this transaction?
    – quid
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:01
  • @quid The buyer. I'm gonna buy the seller's (soon to be old) car from them.
    – Utku
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:03

2 Answers 2


They aren't transferring the loan. The situation is that the owner of the car is upside-down on their loan. That means they owe more money than the car is worth. Lender N is willing to incorporate this deficit into the loan they are offering for the new car.

for example:

  • original price of car 20K
  • original loan balance 18K
  • current loan balance 15K
  • value of car 12K

They want a new car. Dealer N is willing to pay them 10K on the trade in, and will roll the 5K into the loan for the new car. They are hoping they can clean it up the old car and sell it for 12K.

You are willing to buy the car for 11K and they only have to process paperwork. They want the transaction done in their dealership so they can make sure the funds move the way they expect. They will add the 4K owed on the original loan into the new loan.

It is always more complex when negotiating the price, the loan conditions, and a trade-in. It is even harder when the trade-in is upside down. Of course if dealer N is loaning the you the money for the car they have even more ways of making money on the transactions.

The plus for you is that when you complete the transaction you can be sure you have the proper title, and that you haven't been scammed. The risk is that the multiple moving parts may confuse you into a bad deal.

Additional thoughts based on your questions in the comments:

  • The owner doesn't have cash on hand to pay the loan down to the loan balance, so they need to take on a more risky transaction where they will be guaranteed to be even more upside down on their new vehicle.
  • Dealer N would normally add their cash to the transaction to pay off the original loan, but the seller doesn't like all the terms.
  • This is a compromise. You are paying more than the dealer will pay the owner, and less than you would have paid Dealer N.
  • It is complex enough that if are uncomfortable with the details, then walk away.
  • 3
    You are buying the car from the owner. The new dealer wants to be a witness before they approve a loan for more than the new car is worth. They also may be your lender. Oct 29, 2019 at 12:49
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    But will there be any lien on the car when I buy it? If there will be, there is no point in me buying it. How am I going to make sure that the car will be lien-free when I buy it?
    – Utku
    Oct 29, 2019 at 13:08
  • 1
    Nope, I'm gonna pay cash the full price. I'm thinking about the current owner's remaining payments on the car. Right now, those remaining payments are secured with the car that they are selling (which I will be buying). How am I going to be sure that those remaining payments will be secured with their new vehicle, and not the vehicle that I will be buying?
    – Utku
    Oct 29, 2019 at 13:12
  • 2
    the collateral for the new car loan is the new car. Your money and dealer N's money will be sent to pay off the loan. You will receive a title with no lender listed. Oct 29, 2019 at 13:14
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    It is absolutely possible to buy the car without dealer N. People do this every day. You give money to the seller. The seller pays off his bank, and they issue a lien release. You end up with a clean title. Purely from your perspective, the only important thing is that the seller pays off his bank. It's typical for buyers to issue payment directly to the seller's bank in cases where there's an outstanding lien. If the seller is upside down, you should only issue payment once they've paid the loan down to the amount you're giving them.
    – dwizum
    Oct 29, 2019 at 16:04

You asked a few questions,

Does anyone have any idea about this? Is everything right here? Any gotchas that I need to be aware of?

It's hard to answer those, because we're getting your description of the proposed deal, and that inherently leaves some gaps.

If we take a step back, and ignore whether or not the seller is getting taken advantage of by the dealer, the only thing that matters (to you) is paying an agreed price, and receiving the vehicle and a clean, lien-free title.

Right now, we can presume that the seller's original lender has a lien on the title. That lien will be released when the remaining balance of the loan is paid off. The transactions required to do so do not require participation of a dealer - the only third party involved is the bank that financed the seller's loan. Typically, for a private party sale, the buyer and seller would agree upon a price. The buyer (you) would make payment directly to the seller's bank (this removes the chance that the seller takes the money and runs, or otherwise doesn't bother to satisfy the lien). If the sale price is more than the loan payoff amount, the buyer would remit two payments - one to the bank for the payoff amount, and one to the seller for the balance. However, in the case of this seller, it seems that they are upside down (they owe more than the car is worth). In these cases, it's typical for the seller to pay the loan down to the sales price, and then the buyer remits the full amount directly to the bank. Either way, the bank releases the lien and you happily receive a clean title.

However, the seller may not be prepared (in the financial sense) to pay the loan down enough that the balance will be equal to your agreed sales price. This is the point at which mhoran_psprep's answer becomes relevant - the seller may be trying to roll the remaining balance into a loan on their new car.

Speaking from the seller's perspective, this can be attractive, because it lets them get a new car. But, looking out for their financial health, it's almost always a bad move to take this path, since it basically means that they will instantly be upside-down on the new car (because they've borrowed more than they are buying it for). These days, few banks will be happy to do such a deal, because a buyer upside-down means that a portion of the loan balance is not protected by the collateral. As such, banks sometimes impose limits on how the transaction must play out. The bank may require that the sale is to a dealer, not a private party.

Speaking from the dealer's perspective, whether or not the seller is upside down, it's to their advantage to be involved in as much of the transaction as possible, because it gives them more variables to play with to their own benefit (which is a nice way of saying: it gives them an opportunity to take advantage of the seller). It's easier for the dealer to make the new car transaction look appealing if they have a trade-in transaction in which they can "hide" profit opportunities.

To bring this all back on track, the bold sentence above is the thing you should focus on. Make sure you understand each step of the proposed transaction, and make sure you think carefully about risk you may be taking on. Ask questions if you don't understand, and don't let the seller or the dealer pressure you in to something you're not comfortable with. If you are entering into a contract to purchase the vehicle from the dealer, make sure the terms in that contract match your expectations with respect to the negotiations you had with the seller.

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