Selling your car yourself can net you more money for the car -- the resale value of the car versus the trade-in value. But in addition to the extra time and effort involved in advertising and showing your car for sale, you risk getting stiffed by a buyer who pays you with a hot check. Taking a few steps before the sale to ensure you accept payment safely will protect you from a scam artist.
Safe Payment Methods
Cash is the safest way to accept payment for a car. If a buyer pays you cash, count out the money in his presence. Be suspicious of bills that feel too slick or that look “off.” United States currency is made with heavy linen paper with blue and red threads woven into it – look for these threads. A cashier’s check can also be safe, but fraud exists here, too. Examine the check closely, and call the bank that issued it to verify the check is legitimate. Personal checks are the riskiest form of payment. If you do accept a check, make a copy of the check writer’s driver’s license. Some states require a driver’s license to file fraudulent check charges. Call the bank that issued the check to verify the account has sufficient funds to pay the check. Or meet the buyer at his bank and have him write a check to the bank to withdraw the cash to pay you.
Writing the Ad
Designate your preferred form of payment when you write your ad to sell the car. If you only want to accept cash, state Cash Only. If you want to avoid personal checks, say No Personal Checks. When you set up an appointment to show the car, remind the buyer about your payment policies. Decide ahead of time what’s the lowest price you’ll take for the car. One tactic buyers may use is to offer cash, but less than your asking price. A prospective buyer may tell you he doesn't have any more cash. If you’re satisfied with his offer, make your deal.
Exchanging a large sum of money with a stranger puts you at risk from the buyer or another potential thief. Arrange to make the exchange in a public place, if possible, and have someone come with you so you don’t face the buyer alone. Once you have the money in your hand, head for your bank to make a deposit, so you aren’t carrying around a large amount of cash. If you make the sale at your home, conduct business outside. Don’t let potential buyers into your home to check it out, and don’t show the car when you’re home alone.
Compare the trade-in price you could get for your car to the price you hope to realize by selling it yourself to determine if selling it yourself is worth the hassle and risk. If you live alone or in a high-crime area, you may decide the extra cash isn't worth it. If you do decide to sell your car yourself, screen potential buyers by questioning him about why he wants to buy the car and what he's looking for, and trust your instincts. If someone feels like trouble to you, avoid him.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.