Did you know that 87% of Americans dislike at least one aspect of buying a car at a traditional dealer? Many feel taken advantage of, and know that they can score more value for their money if they look elsewhere. That makes selling your used car as a private party a very viable option.

Selling your used car is a great way to put money in your pocket. Of course, if you’re apprehensive about the selling process itself, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, while sketchy car buyers certainly exist, the right knowledge and tools will ensure a safe and secure transaction.

The Red Flags

Knowing the common red flags of sketchy car buyers that should raise your suspicions can help you avoid a fraudulent (or just plain time-consuming) transaction. Here are a couple.

An Elaborate Back Story

There’s no doubt that some people are down on their luck and looking to buy a used car, perhaps at a discount in order to get back on their feet again. However, if you have a buyer who’s getting more and more elaborate with their back story and maybe sharing too many details, you should think twice.

Scammers often attempt to get sympathy in order to twist your arm and convince you to do things you wouldn’t normally agree to — like shipping a car overseas before the payment clears. When in doubt, get a second opinion and always trust your gut.

Special Payment Requests

While you might choose to work out a payment plan with a buyer, you need to be wary when special payment requests come along. Don’t use escrow services you haven’t researched properly.

In general, getting cash for your car or a direct payment through a trusted mediator like PrivateAuto is the absolute most secure way to sell your car.

If you accept anything other than cash, make sure you have the funds in your account before signing over the title. If you don't have your car's title, you need to locate or replace itbefore you can move forward with the transaction, as it's an essential legal document that transfers ownership and releases your liability when the car changes hands.

Transaction Safety Tips

Selling a car as a private party represents some unique challenges that you need to be aware of. Meeting a stranger at your home, for instance, is less than ideal. To protect yourself from scams and other threats, be sure to follow these general safety tips.

Know Your Bottom Line

Many car sellers, particularly first-time sellers, have walked away after a deal with seller’s remorse because they dropped the price too low in the spur of the moment, without fully thinking it through. While this isn’t necessarily because of a buyer trying to scam you, it happens far too often to those not properly prepared for negotiation.

To make sure your transaction goes smoothly and you don’t feel shorted, run the numbers and know your bottom line (lowest selling price) before you ever meet with a buyer. That way, if they try to negotiate, you know what offer you’re comfortable accepting and when you need to counter or walk away. This is crucial because you never know when you’ll meet with someone who buys cars for a living or someone who’s attempting to get a car for free.

Meet in a Public Place

Experts like ADT always advise meeting in a public place. Meeting in a public place accomplishes a few things, but for starters it helps you avoid giving out your home address to every stranger who tries to set up a meeting. In addition to helping protect your privacy, public places also provide non-personal, well-lit areas that are brimming with people, giving you a sense of security if you feel uncomfortable with the person who shows up.

As a bonus, most public places (like grocery store parking lots) also have security cameras, which can deter scammers from showing up to begin with, since they know their face (and actions) will be recorded. Staying safe is the top priority, so be sure to read our other guide for more personal safety advice.

Bring a Friend Along

Having backup is always helpful when making a sale, especially if you’re afraid the buyer will pressure you to lower your price. Not only can your colleague help you stick to your best price, they can also give you an added feeling of safety since they’ll be with you throughout the deal.

If no one is available to accompany you, you might consider keeping someone on the line or asking them to check-in with you at some point during the scheduled meeting to make sure things are going well. A phone call could also provide you an out, should you feel the need to leave.

How to Avoid Fraud

Just because someone doesn’t want to pay cash doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Don’t Take Personal Checks

“Personal” checks are the kind that people rip out of their checkbooks for small purchases and bills. The primary issue with a personal check is that anyone can write one for any amount, even if they don’t have enough money in their account. That means the check will bounce when you try to cash it later, and if you’ve already signed over the title, you’ll have little recourse.

If you choose to take a check, make sure the money clears before you sign the title over. Better yet, only take a “cashier’s check,” which the individual has to request from their bank. Cashier’s checks are guaranteed, as the bank will only issue them if the individual does, indeed, have enough money in their account to cover the check’s value.

Ask for a License and ID

You should always verify the buyer’s identity before you readily accept their word. This is especially important if you’re taking a check or other form of payment, and it’s also necessary for verifying their signature on the Bill of Sale and other documentation.

Alternatively, you can use a tool like PrivateAuto that will do the verification and other security checks for you, so both you and your buyer can keep your information private and secure.

Sell Your Car Securely

Waiting on a great cash offer? Cars, trucks, and SUVs sell quicker when you use PrivateAuto. No matter your car’s make or model year, you can use PrivateAuto to advertise your used car, securely communicate with buyers, and even schedule test drives for local sales, discuss shipping for long-distance sales, and take payments electronically.

Best of all, PrivateAuto helps you get the paperwork in order, with all the documents you need for your state and electronic signatures so you can wrap the deal up quickly. What are you waiting for? List your car at PrivateAuto today.