Private car sales are an opportunity for buyers to get a real bargain. It’s an excellent deal for sellers too.

Kelley Blue Book and other car value providers quote both dealer and private salevalues. The wholesale value is what dealers are willing to pay. Private sale values are higher than wholesale. That is, a private seller can get more for the car than dealers would offer.

Retail value is how much dealers want for the car. The private sale value is lower. In other words, a used car buyer can get a better deal buying from a private party.

So, it’s a good opportunity for both the buyer and the seller. But there are risks when dealing with strangers.

You hear it in the news all the time…

… people who meet on the internet… somebody gets scammed, robbed, assaulted…

… or worse.

Meeting strangers is risky, no doubt!

But in a private used car sale, the two parties will need to meet face-to-face at some point…

  • To inspect the car
  • To go for a test drive
  • To close the sale.

You shouldn’t live in fear — most strangers are good, honest people. But you should take caution. That means meeting in a place that reduces the risk of falling victim to foul play.

Safe Places To Meet for Private Car Sales

Features of a Safe Place

A safe meeting place has crime deterrents. Scam artists and robbers avoid places where they are more likely to get caught. They will try to get you to meet where there aren’t other people around… or in the middle of the night…

… but you need to meet somewhere you’ll both be seen.

Here are some features of a safe meeting place:

Lighting

Meet during daylight hours if possible. Avoid dark places like a parking garage. You want to make sure that you and other people nearby can see faces. Crooks like to work under cover of darkness so that people can’t identify them.

If you have to meet after dark, find a well-lit place. You need to set a time so you can complete all business before 9 pm. Late nights are when evildoers are most active.

Foot Traffic

Meet in a place where there are other people around. The bad guys don’t like it when other people see their misdeeds.

Bring along another adult when you meet a stranger. Even though there are other people around, a delinquent might get bold, even in public. Sadly, a lot of people don’t want to get involved when they see someone in trouble who they don’t know.

Security Cameras

Over the last few decades, digital camera tech has improved a lot. A very tiny lens can capture stark images. Even the cameras in our phones take photos as good as expensive digital cameras from ten years ago.

Wireless connections are now more secure and reliable. This makes installing video monitoring systems easier and less expensive than before.

Security guards can monitor several locations on a single computer screen. You can store hours of video footage without taking up a lot of storage space.

As a result, more places have camera surveillance than ever before.

And the last thing a crook wants is to be caught on camera.

Places to Meet

Here are some good meeting places for test drives, closing the deal, and such.

Good:

Public libraries. They have people coming and going all day long. Many have camera surveillance in their parking lots. They’re usually near major roads where there’s a lot of drive-by traffic.

Large retailers. Places like Walmart and Home Depot get a lot of foot traffic. They also have video monitoring in the parking lot.

Supermarkets. Like the large retail stores, there are a lot of people around. Many of them have parking lot cameras.

Travel plazas. These are places where truck drivers, RVers, bus passengers, road trippers, and all kinds of travelers can stop for food and fuel. They also have showers and overnight parking for big rigs and RVs. Most of them have parking area cameras.

Better:

Liquor Stores. Places that sell alcohol have a lot of security. Since they have high-value inventory and often have a lot of cash at the point-of-sale terminal, they are prime targets for theft and robbery. You can expect them to have lots of cameras in the parking lot and plain-clothed security guards on duty.

Mall parking lot. Shopping malls have a lot of foot traffic, security cameras, and on-duty security guards.

Bank or credit union. Financial institutions have tight security, for obvious reasons. They have guards on duty and lots of video monitoring.

Best:

Police Safe Zones. All over the USA, police stations are setting up places where people can meet to close an internet sale.

Lots of people are trading on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay…

… That means a lot of people are meeting with strangers.

During the summer of 2014, Boca Raton, FL police responded to 4 robberies where the victim met with someone selling on the internet. That led them to create a Safe Zone in the police station parking lot.

Other police stations began to set up their own Safe Zones. Some allowed internet traders to use the police station lobby.

In some places, a police officer meets with the traders.

How To Find Safe Zones

It’s a fair bet that there’s a Safe Zone near you. There are some simple ways to find them.

  • Follow your local police department on social media. They often announce Safe Zone locations in the newsfeed.
  • Search on Google. Enter “e-commerce safe zone near me,” “safe trade locations,” or something similar. Click on the maps tab to see locations.
  • Search by your location on Safetradespots.com. It shows a list of nearby locations and a map with location pins.
  • Check your local police department website. They may have addresses of safe places.
  • Use the PrivateAuto test drive scheduler. It suggests safe places to meet so the buyer can check out the car and take it for a test drive. You can also schedule a mechanical inspection with a local technician.
  • Call your local police. Not all safe places show up on internet searches. There’s a good chance that there’s a place near you. Be sure to call the station's local number and not 911.

The PrivateAuto Test Drive and Inspection Schedulers

Use PrivateAuto’s scheduling tools.

To schedule a test drive:

  • First, choose a place you want to meet. If you don’t know a good safe place, the scheduler will make suggestions.
  • Then pick times suitable for you.

If you’re buying, you should inspect the car:

  • Verify odometer
  • Verify vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Check the condition of the tires.
  • Check for dents and scratches.
  • Make sure the AC and heat work properly.
  • Other checks.

Before you meet, let a family member or a friend know where you’re going. Tell them that you’ll contact them after. If they don’t hear from you before a certain time, something went wrong.

You might want to make sure the other party has a valid driver’s license. Take a photo of it and send it to the person who’s expecting to hear from you after the test drive.

If you’re selling, ride along during the test drive. You don’t want a stranger to take out your car and not return

After the test drive, the buyer may want a mechanical inspection. That helps ensure there aren’t hidden problems.

Use the PrivateAuto inspection scheduler to find a nearby ASE Certified technician. Certification shows that the tech has the proper training and experience to inspect and repair cars and light trucks.

Conclusion/Final Thoughts

A lot of people have fallen victim to crime when buying and selling online. You should take caution when trading a used car.

Look for places with features that deter criminal activity:

  • Good lighting
  • Other people around
  • Security cameras and/or on-duty guards

Public libraries, large retail stores, supermarkets, and travel stops are good places to meet. They have security cameras and there are other people around.

Liquor store parking lots, mall parking lots and banks are better because they have on-duty security guards.

Police stations across the USA have set up Safe Zones for people making internet trades. These are the best places to meet because officers are nearby.

With the PrivateAuto test drive scheduler, it’s easy to set up a safe-place meeting. If you don’t know any safe locations near you, the scheduler will offer suggestions.

Most used car trading websites cater to dealerships. At PrivateAuto, we only deal with private party sales. That’s why we do all we can to keep you safe.

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