Selling a car privately can net you more money than trading it in, but it also comes with risks like scams. Use this guide to learn how to safely sell your car to a private party and avoid fraud.
You might also be interested in our article on the red flags or signs of a scam when BUYING a car.
- Screen Buyers Thoroughly
- Meet in a Public Place
- Be Wary of Unusual Requests
- Only Accept Secure Payment
- Don’t Share Personal Information
- Transfer the Title Properly
- Create a Paper Trail
- Trust Your Instincts
- Red Flags of Car Selling Scams
- How to Spot Red Flags
- What to Do If Scammed
- Safely Navigating Common Situations
Screen Buyers Thoroughly
Insist on speaking to serious buyers on the phone before meeting in person. Ask questions to verify their sincerity, like:
- What are your needs for purchasing this car?
- Do you have financing lined up or the cash to buy this car?
Be wary of buyers who seem evasive or won’t provide contact info. This could indicate a scam.
Meet in a Public Place
Arrange to meet interested buyers in a busy public area like a mall parking lot. This ensures your safety when test driving or finalizing the sale.
Avoid meeting at your home. Scammers may know where you live if you meet at your house.
Be Wary of Unusual Requests
Decline any odd requests from buyers, like asking you to drive them somewhere or deliver the car. This may be a scam tactic.
Politely refuse and instead ask for a deposit if they want you to hold the car.
Only Accept Secure Payment
Cash is best. For larger purchases, accept a cashier’s check and verify the funds with the issuing bank before signing over the title.
Avoid personal checks, money orders, online payments like PayPal, or escrow services you’re unfamiliar with, as these may be fraudulent.
Don’t Share Personal Information
Never provide sensitive info like your driver’s license, social security number, or bank details. This protects against identity theft.
Transfer the Title Properly
Follow your state’s guidelines for transferring title. Don’t sign it over until payment is secured.
Provide a recent emissions test result if required in your state prior to sale.
Create a Paper Trail
Save copies of communications, the bill of sale, title transfer paperwork, and odometer reading. This protects you if issues arise later.
Trust Your Instincts
If you feel uneasy about a buyer, don’t ignore your gut feeling. It’s better to miss a sale than get scammed.
Red Flags of Car Selling Scams
|Buyer insists on using wire transfer or shipping car sight unseen||Legitimate buyers want to see the car in person before buying.|
|Buyer sends check for more than agreed price||Scam tactic to get you to wire back the overage which turns out to be from a fake check.|
|Buyer insists on using a specific escrow service||Scammer directs you to use a fake escrow service they control.|
|Buyer asks to meet far from your home||Meeting place with few people around puts your safety at risk.|
|Buyer tugs on heartstrings with sob story||Scammer attempts to build trust through their story.|
How to Spot Red Flags
Watch for these common scam red flags when selling your car:
- Buyer insists on paying with wire transfer or shipping car sight unseen
- Buyer sends a check for more than agreed price
- Buyer pushes to use a specific escrow service
- Buyer requests meeting place far from your home
- Buyer shares sob story or tugs on heartstrings
What to Do If Scammed
If you are the victim of a scam:
- File a report with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
- Report it to your local police department
- Notify sites like Craigslist if your ad was involved
- Contact your bank if fake checks or payments were used
Safely Navigating Common Situations
|Test drives||Verify buyer’s ID, accompany them, limit drive time|
|Online buyers||Video chat first, don’t ship sight unseen|
|Checks||Independently verify funds before accepting|
|Title transfer||Only sign after securing full payment|
Test drives – Have buyers show ID and accompany them. Don’t allow extended solo test drives.
Online buyers – Video chat first and be wary of shipping cars sight unseen.
Checks – Always verify funds directly with the issuing bank before accepting any check.
Title transfer – Only sign over the title after securing payment, never before.
Selling a car privately can get you the best price, if you take steps to avoid scams. Screen buyers thoroughly, meet in public, get paid before transferring title, and trust your instincts. With proper precautions, you can have a safe and profitable sale.