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Selling a Car for Cash: Risks and Precautions

Selling a Car for Cash

You have a lot of payment options when it comes to selling your old car either at a dealer or in a private sale. The problem is there are risks associated with most of these, and some of them are clear signs of an outright scam. But that may make you wonder if selling a car for cash has risks or not.

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Most people will tell you that cash is king when it comes to selling a used car. Things like wire transfers and personal checks often bring with them the big risk of being fraudulent. Cash is reliable, fast, and doesn’t take any time to clear or process.


 Scams to Look Out for When Selling Your Car for Cash


There are a lot of would-be buyers out there who will try to scam you if you’re not careful. If you’re aware of the warning signs, you can very much limit the danger to yourself. Keep your eyes open for some of the following red flags.


  • Be wary of big payments. Cash is usually the most secure form of payment for a car. But if you are selling your car for a lot of money, a full cash payment could be suspicious. The more expensive your car is, the more cautious you should be about a full cash payment.


Your best bet for a high value sale is to conduct the transaction in a bank. That way, even if the buyer pays you totally in cash, you can be confident that the sale is legit. Meet at the bank and have the buyer withdraw the cash in front of you where you can see it.


If you’re selling a car for a good chunk of money, something like $10,000 or more, you definitely don’t want to get scammed by counterfeit bills. Conduct the transaction at a bank and you’re going to eliminate any chance of fraud.


Have your buyer withdraw the cash once you’re both there and watch a teller count it out for you so that it doesn’t have to change hands between you and the buyer at all. If you don’t want to have that much cash, they could do the same thing to give you a bank draft.


If your buyer doesn’t want to meet at a bank and won’t agree to terms like these, that’s a big red flag. What you’re asking isn’t unreasonable in any way. If someone won’t agree to your payment terms, then it’s probably best to end the transaction.


  • Alternate offers. If cash is the only payment you want to accept and you say so in your ad, be wary of people who insist on other payment methods. If a buyer keeps trying to get you to accept a personal check or money order, this is a good sign that they’re up to something shady.


Some forms of payment that seem safe may not be as well. For instance, a cashier’s check sounds secure, but you’d be surprised at how often people fake these. Between 2014 and 2017, the FTC handled almost 30,000 complaints of check fraud. 


  • Dangerous meetings. Most people who talk about online scams stick strictly to the financial side of things. You need to be aware of wire transfers, or people who want to have you ship your car to another country. But there is a more present, real danger to be aware of as well.


It’s always a good idea to meet your prospective buyer in person. But you need to do so with an eye to your own safety. If the buyer wants you to go to their house to accept cash, you may want to suggest a better, more public option.


It may not be pleasant to talk about, but sometimes there are people on sites like Craigslist who are looking to do more than just rip you off. Your personal safety needs to be your number one concern, even above not getting ripped off. Never agree to meet someone in a situation that makes you feel unsafe.


The flip side of that coin is never have them come to your house either. This might seem like a better idea because you are in control. That’s only true until it’s not.


There have been cases of sellers inviting a buyer to their home to get the car. More than one person shows up and they’re armed with weapons. You can have your home robbed and you could end up seriously injured or worse.


When you are meeting for a sale, and you should always meet in person to sell your car, do so publicly during the day. The best bet is to have a friend come with you. Meet your buyer at a bank so the financial transaction can take place where it will be seen and monitored.


  • Protect your identity. Aside from financial scams, there are people who are going to try to scam you for personal details. This is all part of identity theft that you can minimize if you know what to do.


It’s best not to put your phone number in the ad itself. Have the initial contact done through email. It’s even better if you set up a specific email just for this transaction. People can track down a lot of information about you if you give them your regular email address or your phone number.


Another thing to keep safe is your personal details related to the car. If you’re sharing the service records for the vehicle and the car history, for instance, black out anything that identifies you and just keep the relevant information about the car.


You should always post photos of your car in any ads but do so carefully with those as well. Don’t have your home visible in them and make sure you haven’t geotagged them.  


A lot of cell phones will automatically geotag photos by including longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates in the data embedded in the picture. Someone who knows what they’re doing could determine exactly where in the world you took a photo.



What Can You Do to Stay Safe When Selling a Car for Cash?


Even though it seems like everything could potentially be a scam, you have resources at your disposal. There are things you can do to make the transaction safer and reliable.


  • Stick to your guns. Clearly state the payment terms you are expecting in your ad. If a buyer wants something different, you can politely explain your position again. If they keep insisting on something else, tell them that you’re not going to budge and the transaction is over if they don’t want to meet your terms.


  • Be professional. Most scammers rely on people who aren’t savvy enough to know they’re being scammed. Part of that means only responding to ads that they think are by people who aren’t knowledgeable about automobiles.


When you’re placing the ad for your car, make it as professional as you can. Include all the relevant details like:


  • Mileage
  • Trim package
  • Paint colour
  • Interior condition
  • Options
  • Vehicle history
  • Transmission type
  • Engine size


The more details you can include, and the more clear photos you can include, the more professional you look overall. Someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about is not a good victim for a scam, so you’ll be more likely to only attract serious, real buyers.


  • Have backup. Like we said, when you’re meeting you should have a friend with you. This is important for personal safety reasons. And it also may be necessary just for finishing the transaction.


Your buyer is probably going to want to test drive the car at some point. If they don’t, that’s a red flag all on its own. But if they do, then having backup makes it something that can be done more safely.


You’re going to want to be in the car with the buyer when they go for a test drive. Letting them go on their own is an invitation for getting ripped off, right? And if you’re worried about your personal safety, having someone who knows where you are is key.


Just remember, if you’re letting someone take a test drive, have your friend take a picture of the buyer’s driver’s license with their phone. That will give them the buyer’s name and address, just in case. No legitimate buyer should have any concerns about this kind of safety precaution.


The Bottom Line


When it comes to selling your car for cash, although it is safer than most other kinds of payments that people might offer you, you still need to be cautious. Never take anything for granted and always make sure you’re keeping safe.


If you feel like a private sale is too risky, remember that Cash Cars Buyer has been in this business for over 10 years. We can make you an offer and get your cash in hand in under 24 hours. Hundreds of satisfied customers can attest to our level of professionalism, and the fairness of the offers will make.


However you want to proceed with selling your car, just make sure that you are being smart and protecting yourself. Don’t let anyone convince you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with. Better to not sell your car than put yourself at risk.


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