How to Sell a Car Without Getting Scammed

How to Sell a Car Without Getting Scammed

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

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

Red FlagDescription
Buyer insists on using wire transfer or shipping car sight unseenLegitimate buyers want to see the car in person before buying.
Buyer sends check for more than agreed priceScam 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 serviceScammer directs you to use a fake escrow service they control.
Buyer asks to meet far from your homeMeeting place with few people around puts your safety at risk.
Buyer tugs on heartstrings with sob storyScammer 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
  • 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

SituationSafety Tips
Test drivesVerify buyer’s ID, accompany them, limit drive time
Online buyersVideo chat first, don’t ship sight unseen
ChecksIndependently verify funds before accepting
Title transferOnly 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.

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Steve is a former licensed car dealer located in the State of Florida.  He has many years of experience buying, selling, and working on cars mechanically and started Autohitch to help buyers and Sellers navigate the complex lands of Car Buying.