How to Sell a Car Without Getting Scammed

Selling your used car? Don't get scammed by shady buyers. We'll list the most common tricks and traps, along with smart steps to take for safe used car selling.

Follow these tips to sell your car without getting duped by fraudsters along the way:
We’ll also show you an awesome technology solution that lets you sell your car safely, conveniently, and quickly.

Only Use Trusted Platforms

You’ll need to list your car on one or more marketplaces that will attract potential buyers. To avoid getting scammed, look for a platform that fits the following criteria:

Self-serve technology gives you convenience and security
An intuitive deal flow takes you through every step of selling your vehicle
In-app messaging and scheduling keep your personal information private
An integrated payment gateway lets you receive large sums of money instantly and fee-free

In other words, you want a fully transactional online marketplace that gives you end-to-end tools to get the deal done and keep you safe. PrivateAuto is the only platform that fits the bill. List your car for sale today to connect with prospective buyers.

PrivateAuto is the most user-friendly place to sell your car, but we don't hate other listing sites. Some of them have terrific reach. The problem is, that they don't give you the tools you need to get the deal done. That's why we created DealNow.

DealNow allows you to use PrivateAuto's transactional technology, even if you've met your buyer on another site, such as Facebook Marketplace, CarGurus, or Craigslist.

Here’s how it works:

1. Invite the buyer to DealNow via a custom link.
2. Enjoy identity verification, in-app messaging, and a test drive scheduling feature (none of which require you to exchange contact info).
3. Meet the buyer and let the buyer drive your car.
4. You and the buyer go together through a step-by-step transaction process in which you each confirm relevant details right in the PrivateAuto mobile app. From mileage to the VIN to the condition of the vehicle, we help you both prevent any errors.
5. You and the buyer each electronically sign an official bill of sale. The buyer gets confirmation that you have signed and that they are safe to pay for the car since the bill of sale is a legally binding document. Both you and the buyer have a copy of the signed bill of sale stored in your PrivateAuto account for reference.
6. The buyer is prompted to initiate payment via our integrated banking gateway, PrivateAuto Pay.
7. You get the money instantly in your PrivateAuto Pay account and confirm receipt of payment.
8. You sign over the car title and hand over the keys.

DealNow is so safe, and so fast that you’ll never want to sell a car without it. No matter where you find your buyer—from eBay Motors to Autotrader to the friend of a friend—DealNow will help you get the deal done and get paid, right now.

Bottom line: list your car wherever you like (including PrivateAuto), then use PrivateAuto’s tech to close the deal. You’ll have buyers pouring in, and PrivateAuto’s handy dashboard will help you screen them all, arrange the test drive, and get paid. It’s the safest way to sell your car.
Image highlighting DealNow by PrivateAuto

Don’t Get Talked into Using Escrow Services

Some fraudulent buyers will insist on using a fake escrow service to scam you. They may even create a convincing escrow site.

You agree on a price, and the buyer claims to fund the escrow service. You may even see proof that the escrow company is holding the money—but the funds are still in the fraudster’s control. After you sign over the car and give them the keys, they take off. Then the fake check bounces, and the scammer and their money are long gone.

Don't get duped by escrow scams. Choose a reputable escrow service yourself, rather than letting the buyer suggest one. Better yet, just invite the buyer to use DealNow and use PrivateAuto's secure instant payment solution, PrivateAuto Pay.

PrivateAuto Pay gives you escrow-like safeguards in the palm of your hand, so you can sell your car conveniently, securely, and inexpensively.

Meet in a 'Safe Zone'

Other sites force you to exchange contact info with a stranger to schedule the test drive. It’s time for a safer way.

Our handy in-app scheduler allows you and the buyer to conveniently arrange the ideal time and public meetup spot.

1. You choose the location and specify some available time slots.
2. The buyer selects from your available time slots and schedules the test drive, with no input needed from you.
3. You meet up and get the deal done.

You control the entire process securely through your PrivateAuto dashboard. You can opt to deal with only legitimate buyers, so you can feel confident meeting them for a test drive.

Most Common Scams Targeting Sellers

While many scams target buyers, private sellers are also vulnerable to fraudulent activity. Scammers are constantly evolving their tactics to take advantage of unsuspecting sellers.

Here are some common scams that sellers should be aware of when using platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay Motors:

1. Counterfeit payment scam
2. Fake PayPal scam
3. Overpayment scams
4. Phishing scams
5. Stolen credit card scam

One: Counterfeit Payment Scam

The counterfeit payment scam involves fraudsters using counterfeit money to pay for a car during an in-person transaction. It is a very popular scam on Facebook Marketplace and other listing sites.

It’s better to not deal in cash payments with strangers. Instead, invite the buyer to DealNow and enjoy our smooth deal flow, privacy safeguards, and instant payments.

Two: Fake PayPal Payment Scam

PayPal is a popular way of getting paid, but scammers have figured out how to fake a payment. They mimic PayPal confirmations to dupe sellers.

Real PayPal emails use your full name and don't ask for personal info. Always log in to verify payments directly.

Stay vigilant for fake PayPal emails. Better yet, skip PayPal entirely and use DealNow for protection.

Three: Overpayment Schemes

This trick starts with the buyer sending a cashier's check for more than the agreed-upon sale price. For example, you are selling a Jeep Gladiator for $40,000, and they give you a check for $45,000.

The scammer will plead with you to refund the $5,000 overage back to them right away, often claiming it was an innocent mistake. They may spin an elaborate story to convince you.

But a few days later, that cashier's check will bounce when the bank discovers it's a counterfeit check. Even though you initially deposited the full $45,000, the bank will pull all those funds back out of your account.

You'll owe the bank $45,000, while the scammer pockets the $5,000 cash you refunded them. Never accept a check for more than the final agreed sale amount. Insist that any overpayments get corrected on their end.

Four: Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are some of the most common scams on eBay and Craigslist. A phishing scam starts with a supposed buyer contacting you about a listing. They request sensitive information such as the following:

Bank account or routing numbers
Credit card details
Copy of driver's license
Social security number

They make seemingly legitimate excuses about needing these details when in reality, they're stealing your data.

Trust your instincts—and use DealNow.

Five: Stolen Credit Card Scam

Scammers use stolen cards to buy items, leaving sellers without money and a car.

A supposed buyer purchases your item with a stolen credit card. The payment seems to go through successfully at first.

But soon the card owner sees the unauthorized charge and reports it. The payment then gets reversed. You’re left empty-handed.
Image highlighting Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

What is The Safest Way of Accepting a Payment as a Seller?

Most private sellers don't think about safe payment methods until it is time to get paid. The reality is that there are no good ways of transferring large sums of money between strangers. Existing payment methods are risky, inconvenient, expensive, or some combination of these.

Cash: inconvenient and risky
Check: inconvenient, slow, and risky
Bank transfer: inconvenient, risky, and slow, with fees
Peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo or Paypal: transaction limits, sometimes fees

PrivateAuto Pay is so easy, so secure, and so convenient that you’ll never do a deal without it.

Selling Your Car FAQ

How does PrivateAuto help me manage offers when I sell my car?

Online listing services can quickly drum up a lot of interest and have your inbox full of offers, information requests, and requests for test drives.

Here are a few ways you can manage multiple offers on PrivateAuto:

- Accept, reject, or counter individual offers.
- Schedule meet-up times.
- Recommend locations and times for test drives.
- Link listings on multiple sites to the PrivateAuto platform.

All of this communication occurs through the PrivateAuto app, rather than your personal email or phone number. You can manage all offers on one handy dashboard.

What are the signs of a fake cashier’s check?

Are wire transfers safe in a private car sale?

How to protect yourself when selling a car privately?

How much should I sell my car for?