Meeting with strangers to sell a used car can be risky. These safety tips for selling a car privately will help you steer clear of stranger danger. Explore how to safely sell a car and see how PrivateAuto can be the safest place to sell your vehicle.
Risks of Selling a Car Privately
The truth is, there are some bad people in the world. Now, most people are good and honest, but think of this:
- According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics, crime in the US happens every 24.6 seconds.
- One robbery every 1.7 minutes.
- One aggravated assault every 39 seconds
- A property crime occurs every 4.1 seconds.
- One motor vehicle theft every 40.9 seconds.
- One burglary every 22.6 seconds.
- One personal property theft every 5.7 seconds.
When you advertise your car for sale, total strangers will contact you. You know nothing about them or their intentions. Most of the time, they want to see if your car is right for them.
The bad news is, car ads can also catch the attention of people who want to rip you off, rob you, or cause you bodily harm. It only makes sense to regard these safety tips for selling a car.
Safety Tip #1 - Screen Potential Buyers
When potential buyers contact you, ask them questions to see if they are serious about buying a car. This will not only help you to avoid scammers but will help weed out tire-kickers as well. Here are some examples of questions to ask your potential buyer before agreeing to meet:
- “Thanks for calling, Bill. May I have your last name, please?”
- “Is a hatchback what you’re looking for?”
- “Do you live in this area?”
If they try to avoid answering, be suspicious. A little conversation will help you get a feel for what they’re about and how serious they are about buying a car.
While some potential buyers are tire-kickers who aren’t serious about your vehicle, others could be scammers. Here are some signs that you might be dealing with a shady character:
- The person is contacting you from somewhere far from you.
- They make an offer on your car without a test drive or even seeing the vehicle. It’s probably a ruse to get you to reveal your banking info.
- They only communicate through email or text messages. It’s true that a lot of people prefer to have conversations that way, but a serious buyer wouldn’t refuse a short phone call.
- They want to pay by ACH or wire transfer. They’re probably trying to get your account number.
- They want to pay with a cashier’s check. This may be safer than a personal check but is still used in check fraud scams.
- They won’t meet with you face-to-face. A real buyer will want to see the car and drive it.
If you’re selling a McLaren F1, a Bugatti Chiron, or another limited-production gem, you may attract interested buyers from far away, but no one searches a 600-mile radius to find a Ford Taurus.
PrivateAuto verifies the ID of both buyers and sellers. When you list your car, you don’t have to worry about giving away personal info to strangers. With PrivateAuto, you can rest assured that your prospects are who they say they are.
Safety Tip #2 - Meet In a Public Place
Potential buyers will want to meet you and test drive the car. It’s best if you can meet them in the daytime. If you have to meet after dark, be sure to choose a well-lit area.
Find a meeting place where there are other people around. A strip mall does nicely. A lot of public places these days have video surveillance. It’s a good idea to seek out secure areas as possible meeting places.
Police departments around the country have set up safe exchange zones. They are specifically designated places where people can meet when privately selling things online. They come complete with video surveillance from the local police.
When you meet with a customer, ask to see their driver’s license. After all, you don’t want to be liable for letting an unlicensed driver take your car for a spin.
Ask a friend, relative, or acquaintance you trust to let you send them pictures of your prospects’ driver’s licenses. Arrange to check in with them after each meeting. If they don’t hear from you, they should contact the police.
The PrivateAuto test drive scheduler lets you select a location to meet buyers for a test drive. When you’ve selected the meeting place, add the days and times you’re available.
Safety Tip #3 - Take a Friend
When you meet your prospect, have a friend or family member come along. A person with evil intent is less likely to cause trouble if you have another person with you. Some backup will also give you more confidence if you have to negotiate the price in person. PrivateAuto helps you keep all the important communication online in a secure chat, but some buyers still wish to negotiate during the test drive.
Safety Tip #4 - Keep the Test Drive Short
Ride along during the test drive. This will help ensure that the prospect doesn’t just drive away with your car, never to be seen again. If you feel uncomfortable riding alone with a stranger, then ask your friend or family member to come along on the test drive.
Once around the block is enough to give the buyer a feel for how the car handles. You don’t want a stranger taking you out to the middle of nowhere.
PrivateAuto allows you to recommend a test drive location, so don’t feel like you need to take the vehicle to an unknown location for a drive. Ask the buyer to meet you in neutral territory or in an area that’s familiar to you. This helps you feel comfortable and know that you and your vehicle will be safe on the drive.
Safety Tip #5 - Tell Family and Friends
Communicate with family members and friends when you leave to meet a customer. Arrange a check-in after meeting with a buyer. It’s especially important if you live alone or don’t expect anyone to be home when you get back.
This is a good idea even if you’re still taking a friend along. If your buyer truly has evil intentions, then they may also bring along friends. Don’t be afraid to tell the buyer that your friends are expecting to have you somewhere when the meeting is over.
Safety Tip #6 - Receive Payment
You don’t want a stranger to drive off with your car only to find out that the funds didn’t make it into your account. There are a few ways to make sure you get paid:
- Accept cash only. Be sure to pick up one of those pens retailers use to check for counterfeit bills. You can find them almost anywhere that sells office supplies.
- Use PayPal. If they want to pay electronically, consider a secure P2P payment service you trust, like PayPal or Venmo.
- Take a personal check, but don’t hand over the keys or the title until you’ve confirmed that the funds have cleared. This means the buyer will have to wait a few days to get the car.
- If the buyer wants to pay by cashier’s check, ask him to provide the name of the bank and the name of a teller that can verify that the check is genuine.
- Look up the bank’s phone number yourself. A fake check can have a fake phone number. The scammer might have arranged for someone at that number to impersonate a teller.
- When you close the sale, call the bank and ask the teller to verify the check is good.
PrivateAuto allows you to verify the buyer before meeting in person. All buyers must enter a driver’s license, phone number, and email address when creating an account. This information isn’t available to you as a seller, but PrivateAuto verifies it for added peace of mind.
If you’re not interested in all those steps to ensure cashier’s checks and cash isn’t fake, then use the PrivateAuto direct bank transfer feature. This feature doesn’t share your bank information with a buyer but allows for a safe, direct deposit and verified funds before signing over your title.
Safety Tip #7 - Notify the DMV of the Sale
If you can, close the sale at the DMV. Urban DMV offices have the reputation of keeping customers waiting for hours. If you can go to a nearby rural town with a DMV office, there’s a good chance you avoid the nightmare of waiting in line.
You need to notify the DMV that you no longer own the car. Submit the form your state requires. It’s often called the release of liability or notice of transfer. Most states give you a number of days to submit the form, but it’s a good idea to take care of it right away. That way, you won’t be liable if the new owner:
- Is in an accident.
- Abandons the car.
- Gets a ticket.
- Uses the car to commit a crime.
PrivateAuto has all these forms and state-by-state requirements ready for your convenience. Simply enter your state, and both you and the buyer can electronically sign all the relevant forms.
Stay Safe by Selling With PrivateAuto
By advertising online, you can reach a large audience of potential buyers. Sadly, there could be some bad players in the mix. Some common sense and these safety tips for selling a car can help you avoid problems. PrivateAuto makes it easy to sell your car safely as we:
- Keep your private info secure.
- Verify the buyer’s identity.
- Let you advertise until sold.
- Don't share your personal information.
- Allow you to manage and respond to offers easily.
- Enable you to schedule test drives right from the app.
The new PrivateAuto features make it the safest way to sell a car to a private party. These features allow you to connect with verified buyers, manage offers, and get your vehicle sold. You can breathe easily and confidently accept the highest and best offer from verified buyers.
With PrivateAuto, you get dealer-like services without the dealer. Learn more about selling a car online today. Don’t let scammers, thieves, or criminals stop you from selling to a private party and getting a great deal on your vehicle.