Safety Concerns for Private Car Sellers

by Don Elliott on May 26, 2011

For some people, the toughest part of selling your used car is meeting with potential buyers. Not only is there the awkwardness of inviting a stranger to go through your car, there is also reason to be cautious. By taking a few extra precautions, the chances of a used car sale gone wrong can be reduced. Let your judgment be your guide. Here are a few basic tips.

  • Don’t leave your used car in a supermarket parking lot or a public parking lot with a “For Sale” sign on it. You will be inviting vandalism or theft by bad guys who will know that your car is unattended.
  • Online advertising is the most common way to let people know that your used car is for sale. When working with an online buyer, control the time and place where they can view your car. Set a specific time and then make sure to have a friend or relative at home with you when the potential buyers arrive.
  • It is about the car, not the inside of your house. You can do the entire car deal in your driveway or your garage with the door open. There is no reason for potential car buyers to come into your house.
  • Understandably, buyers will want to test drive your car. Go with them on the test drive or to visit their mechanic. If it works out that you can’t go with them, hold their driver’s license, their wallet, or a serious down payment. Establish exactly when they will return. If they don’t come back at that time and if you have any suspicions, report the car as stolen very quickly. Make sure the buyer knows that you are serious about your intentions before they take your car on a test drive or to their mechanic.
  • Selling your used car with any kind of financing or promise of future payment is a bad idea. If the buyer wrecks the car, has a mechanical problem or just decides not to pay, collecting the balance will be a nightmare.
  • Always sell with a bill of sale, even if it is not required in your state. You can write up your own bill of sale, making sure to include at least the date, VIN, amount of the transaction, and the name and address of both parties. A much better idea would be to use one of many sample forms that are available online. A good one can be obtained for $6.95 from
  • Cash is the best way to make sure that you will be paid. If the buyer wants to pay by check, go with him to his bank and cash the check at the counter. To avoid handling a large sum of cash for a more expensive used car, have the buyer’s bank issue a cashier’s check made out to you. If you owe money on your car, the cashier’s check should include both your name and your lender’s name. Follow your lender’s guidelines to protect yourself and to make sure that your buyer will get their title in a timely manner.
  • Speaking of titles, if you have your title, keep it under wraps until you have a deal with the buyer.
  • Finally, unless you live in a state where the license plate stays with the car, hang on to your license plate. The new buyer will have to get his own plate as soon as possible if he doesn’t have a legal tag to drive on.

Selling your used car can be fun and rewarding. Using a little common sense will help you to create a good used car value for the buyer and let you keep and earn a little extra cash in your pocket.

Send us a comment if these tips on safety concerns were helpful to you.

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